ROME, Ga. - Raymond Watts, 55, of Kingston, Ga., a teacher at Mill Creek Middle School in Woodstock, Ga., was arraigned Thursday after being indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of distribution and possession of child pornography, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
"Identifying and investigating those who victimize children - especially those who hold positions of public trust - is one of the most important responsibilities we have," said Brock Nicholson, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Atlanta. "Sexually exploiting children is despicable, and we will continue to go the extra mile to catch those individuals who prey on innocent victims in this manner."
During the course of an ongoing child pornography investigation, law enforcement discovered that Watts may have been in possession of sexually explicit images of children, in particular minor boys.
In early 2011, an undercover law enforcement agent made contact with Watts, which led to in-person meetings between the two. During one of their meetings, Watts distributed numerous images of child pornography to the agent.
Watts was found to have hundreds of sexually explicit images of children on his home computer. He was arrested and charged in a criminal complaint. On March 1, he made an initial appearance and had his detention hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Walter E. Johnson. Evidence in that hearing indicated that Watts was also a swim coach and had also cut out photos of students and laminated them on a large bookmark that he carried during his teaching duties. Watts was detained pending trial following the preliminary and detention hearings and remains in custody while the investigation continues.
"Anyone who has daily contact with children and is in an authority position with children must be someone whom parents can trust," said U.S. Attorney of the Northern District of Georgia Sally Quillian Yates. "These disturbing charges involve a middle school teacher who has close contact with children. Federal investigators and this office took quick action to see that he was charged and away from those children."
The investigation is part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE initiative to identify, investigate and arrest those who prey on children, including human traffickers, international sex tourists, Internet pornographers, and foreign-national predators whose crimes make them deportable.
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 http://www.cybertipline.com.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill E. Steinberg of the Northern District of Georgia is prosecuting the case.