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Child Exploitation
02/13/2018

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San Diego rancher sentenced in child exploitation probe

Federal judge describes defendant’s behavior as “extraordinary”

SAN DIEGO – A 52-year-old Carmel Valley horse-ranch owner was sentenced in federal court Tuesday to 210 months in prison for possessing and distributing photographs depicting children engaged in sexually explicit activity with adults and dogs.

Christian Clews, who owned and operated his horse ranch in an affluent suburban north San Diego community, pleaded guilty to two counts of child pornography in July but remained free on bond. He was immediately taken into custody by U.S. Marshal’s at the conclusion of the hearing. U.S. District Judge Dana M. Sabraw also sentenced Clews to 25 years of supervised release upon completion of his prison term. 

The investigation was conducted by the San Diego Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, including federal agents with ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in San Diego. The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program is a national network representing over 4,500 federal, state, and local law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies, all working to combat the sexual exploitation of children through the internet.

According to court records, investigators found over 800 images and 600 videos of children engaged in sexually explicit conduct while searching Clews’ computer.  As detailed in the plea agreement, the images and videos included prepubescent boys and girls engaged in a variety of sexual acts. The investigation also revealed Clew’s conduct included repeated sexual victimization of minors for over two decades.

During the sentencing hearing, Judge Sabraw described the case as “extraordinary” pointing to Clews’ pattern of activity that involved the abuse and exploitation of minors over the course of 25 years. The court also noted the individuals writing letters of support for Clews were likely “not informed” as to his true conduct revealed during the investigation.  Describing Clews’ behavior as a “longstanding campaign of predatory conduct,” Judge Sabraw pronounced Clews’ judgement while stating,  “There has to be a consequence to that conduct; there has to be a day of accounting.”

“The production of child pornography creates a permanent record of a child’s sexual abuse, and these victims often suffer a lifetime of re-victimization in knowing the images of their worst nightmare are forever memorialized on the Internet,” said U.S. Attorney Adam L. Braverman. “We are heartened by today’s strong sentence because it ensures that a man who contributed to the victimization of children is out of commission for many years.”

“Today’s sentencing of Christian Clews sends a very strong message to child predators who seek to exploit young victims. HSI is committed to working with the San Diego Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and federal prosecutors to protect children from sexual predators. Investigating these crimes requires a local, national and international commitment and a multi-agency approach of dedicated law enforcement personnel,” said James Plitt, Deputy Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in San Diego. “HSI will continue to assist our law enforcement partners, in particular bringing our transnational investigative authorities to these investigations and prosecutions.”

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 16,000 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 2016, more than 2,600 child predators were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative and more than 800 victims identified or rescued.

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. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196.

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.

For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI’s Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page. HSI is a founding member 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.

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Last Reviewed/Updated: 02/23/2018