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Child Exploitation

Sacramento-area man pleads guilty to child pornography charges

SACRAMENTO - A Sacramento-area man pleaded guilty here Tuesday to possession of child pornography charges stemming from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Thomas Neal, 41, of Roseville, Calif., pleaded guilty to possessing and receiving visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. In entering his guilty plea, Neal admitted that in February 2010, he possessed a computer hard drive and several computer disks containing more than 800 still images and more than 200 videos, each of which showed minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

Additionally, Neal admitted that on or about June 30, 2009, he downloaded a video depicting a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct from the Internet. According to court documents, many of the images and videos Neal possessed depicted known and previously identified children whose abuse images were produced outside California. As set forth in the plea agreement, Neal agreed to forfeit the computer equipment he used to commit both offenses.

Neal faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on the receipt charge, along with a $250,000 fine and a lifetime term of supervised release. He is scheduled to be sentenced May 17 before U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez. The case is being prosecuted by Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Laurel D. White.

This investigation is part of ICE's Operation Predator, a nationwide initiative to identify, investigate and arrest those who sexually exploit children, and the Department of Justice's Project Safe Childhood, which marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet.

As part of Operation Predator, ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423. 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 http://www.cybertipline.com.

Through Project Safe Childhood (PSC), the Department of Justice is seeking to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by U.S. Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, PSC mobilizes federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For additional information on the PSC initiative, go to www.projectsafechildhood.gov or call the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of California and ask to speak with the PSC coordinator.