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Child Exploitation

USVI man pleads guilty to possession of child pornography

ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands - A 35-year-old predator pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography charges here today after a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigation.

ICE special agents took Bradley Douglas Highbarger, of St. Thomas, United States Virgin Islands (USVI) in custody in July 2006 after a search warrant of his residence led to the seizure of his computer. A subsequent forensic analysis of the seized material revealed approximately 78 video clips and more than 30 images containing explicit images of child pornography.

In his guilty plea, Highbarger admitted to using a peer-to-peer software program to receive an illegal video and a separate illegal image in July 2006. Peer-to-peer networks allow users connected to the Internet to link their computers with other computers around the world and share information and files.

"The images of the sexual abuse and exploitation of children depicted in child pornography are crime scenes where the most innocent members of our society are victimized over and over again," said Roberto Escobar Vargas, acting special agent in charge of ICE's office of investigations in Puerto Rico. "We will not and cannot tolerate anyone who seeks to exploit our children and deprive them of their innocence."

Under the plea agreement, Highbarger faces a minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum sentence of 20 years. He also faces a fine of $250,000 and up to a lifetime term of supervised release. He will also forfeit computer and electronic media used in his crimes.

The arrest of Bradley Douglas Highbarger was part of Operation Predator, a comprehensive ICE initiative aimed at those who prey on children, including human traffickers, international sex tourists, Internet pornographers, and foreign national predators whose crimes make them deportable. Since the initiative was launched in July of 2003, there have been more than 11,000 individuals arrested nationwide.

Additional information about Operation Predator is available on the Web at www.ice.gov. ICE encourages the reporting of 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 & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.