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Child Exploitation

TOP STORY: Pittsburgh HSI special agents receive Western Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Agency Director's award

Pittsburgh HSI special agents receive Western Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Agency Director's award
Pittsburgh HSI special agents receive Western Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Agency Director's award

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Pittsburgh Special Agents Derek Bassler and James Kilpatrick have worked together on child exploitation cases for several years, but the case of convicted predator Jeffrey Herschell was particularly challenging, requiring them to travel to the Philippines, work extensively with HSI’s international law enforcement partners and a lot more to bring Herschell to justice.

For their commitment to protecting our children from these heinous crimes and dangerous child predators, both Bassler and Kilpatrick were recognized with a Western Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Agency Directors (LEAD) award. Their perseverance in going the distance to arrest predators like Herschell, who think they can victimize children abroad and not be held accountable in America, should give pause to anyone who engages in this illegal activity.

Regarding the recent awards ceremony, Bassler said, "Child predators like Herschell victimize our children and our communities time and time again. Jim and I know with certainty that the sooner these predators are taken off the streets, our communities are much better off."

Kilpatrick has since taken his HSI Pittsburgh expertise to the Cyber Crimes Center (C-3) where he works as a National Program Manager in the Child Exploitation Investigations Unit.

United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, David Hickton and the Western Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Agency Directors recognized both special agents and Assistant United States Attorney Jessica Smolar for their outstanding work in the successful investigation and prosecution of Jeffrey Herschell, of Washington, Pa.

The LEAD Award was designed to award members of the law enforcement community for their outstanding work for making our communities safer. Special Agents Bassler and Kilpatrick were given the Award for Outstanding Performance in Law Enforcement.

In March 2011, HSI Pittsburgh agents, with assistance from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Washington Police Department, executed a search warrant on Herschell’s residence based on information HSI Pittsburgh had received from HSI Manila. Various computers and electronic storage media were seized. A forensic review of the evidence found child pornography on a thumb drive, CD and on both Herschell’s laptop and desktop computer.

HSI Pittsburgh’s investigation revealed that Herschell, a former uniformed security officer with a private company, made multiple payments through an online pay service to recipients in the Philippines. Through forensic evidence, the special agents determined that Herschell had recorded multiple webcam cybersex shows involving what appeared to be 14 or more Filipino females of various ages engaging in explicit sexual conduct.

With the assistance of HSI Manila, HSI Pittsburgh agents traveled to the Philippines and positively identified and interviewed one of the victims depicted in the recorded webcam cybersex shows. Herschell was subsequently indicted in August 2011 for various child exploitation violations and sentenced in May to 144 months in prison and a lifetime of supervised release.

A CNN television producer, working on a documentary as part of the CNN Freedom Project, which focused on human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of minors in the Philippines, was present in the courtroom for Herschell’s sentencing hearing. The CNN producer previously traveled to the Philippines and interviewed several juveniles who described in horrific detail how they had been forced to perform explicit sexual acts for strangers during numerous webcam sessions that were broadcast throughout the world. CNN subsequently published a story about HSI Pittsburgh’s investigation of Herschell on their Freedom Project website.