AMARILLO, Texas — A Panhandle Texas man was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison following his guilty plea in July to attempted transfer of obscene material to a minor.
This sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas. This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Amarillo Police Department, and the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Bassam Arif Al Zarkani, 33, of Dumas, Texas, has been in custody since his arrest in April.
According to documents filed in the case, on April 14, Al Zarkani sent a “friend request” to an undercover officer’s Facebook account, and the undercover officer accepted that friend request. Al Zarkani and the undercover officer exchanged messages and in response to Al Zarkani’s inquiry, the undercover officer responded, “single…no kids thank god…im 15.”
The conversation turned sexual in nature and Al Zarkani sent the undercover officer a sexually explicit photo of himself. For almost two weeks Al Zarkani and the undercover officer, whom Al Zarkani believed was a 15-year-old female, sent private messages to each other through Facebook. During the conversations, Al Zarkani warned the undercover officer to keep him a secret from her dad and not tell anyone about him until she is 18 years old. On April 28, a meeting site was established, and Al Zarkani traveled from Dumas to Amarillo, Texas, to meet the girl. He was arrested when he arrived at the meeting location.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Frausto, Northern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.
This investigation was conducted under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 12,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2014, more than 2,000 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.