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September 19, 2011Providence, RI, United StatesChild Exploitation

Rhode Island man sentenced to 6 years on child pornography charges

Received and possessed more than 1,100 images and videos of child pornography

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A Portsmouth, R.I., man was sentenced Monday to 72 months in federal prison followed by lifetime supervised release for receiving and possessing more than 1,100 images and videos of child pornography. The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Rhode Island State Police.

Thomas O'Brien, 51, was also ordered by U.S. District Court Judge William E. Smith to continue an earlier court order that he post signs warning that minors are prohibited from entering his Newport dive shop business without adult supervision. O'Brien pleaded guilty in March 2011.

According to court records, in August 2008, based on information provided by Canadian law enforcement authorities to the Rhode Island State Police Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, investigators were led to a teen modeling website that facilitated meetings between child pornography collectors and O'Brien.

On Aug. 18, 2008, O'Brien consented to a search of his home and a forensic preview of digital media including his home computers. On Aug. 20, 2008, authorities searched digital media belonging to O'Brien which revealed more than 1,100 images and videos of child pornography.

During voluntary interviews with investigators, O'Brien described a relationship through an Internet chat room with a minor who lived in Kansas City, Mo., which began in June 2005. O'Brien admitted to sending cash to the minor and providing a webcam which was used to provide him with pornographic pictures and videos of the victim and a friend.

O'Brien was arrested in September 2010 and released on $50,000 unsecured bond. At the time of his initial court appearance, and as a condition of bail, O'Brien was ordered by the court to have no contact with minors, including at his business. The court ordered O'Brien to post signs that prohibited minors from entering his business establishment without an adult.

Investigations such as this are conducted as part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders, and child sex traffickers.

ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE. This hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or NCMEC's CyberTipLine.

U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha, District of Rhode Island, announced the case was being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Terrence P. Donnelly.

O'Brien has been ordered to begin serving his prison sentence by Oct. 11, 2011.