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August 24, 2023Harrisonburg, VA, United StatesChild Exploitation

Virginia real estate agent sentenced 126 years for child sexual abuse material offenses after HSI Harrisonburg investigation

The investigation began with a call to the HSI Tip Line

HARRISONBURG, Va. — An investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Harrisonburg and the Harrisonburg Police Department resulted in a Virginia real estate agent receiving a sentence of 126 years in prison with a mandatory minimum sentence of 120 years for possessing and distributing child sexual abuse material. Rodney Williams, 53, of Harrisonburg, received the sentence Aug. 14 at the Rockingham County Circuit Court in Harrisonburg.

“Rodney Williams’ actions were nothing short of reprehensible,” said HSI Washington, D.C. Special Agent in Charge Derek W. Gordon. “Williams shamefully targeted the most vulnerable members of our community for his own perverse desires. Thankfully, the severity of his sentence reflected the depravity of his crimes. HSI Washington, D.C. remains committed to protecting children from abuse and holding accountable those individuals who would victimize minors.”

The investigation began with a cyber tipline report through the HSI Cyber Crimes Center’s (C3) Child Exploitation Investigations Unit that originated from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The tip led authorities to an IP address that appeared to have uploaded child sexual abuse material through a popular internet messaging app associated with Williams’ address in Harrisonburg.

The HSI investigation revealed that the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children created four CyberTipline reports due to Williams’ activity and that the Harrisonburg Police Department had received at least one of those reports. HSI Harrisonburg invited the Harrisonburg Police Department to conduct a joint investigation into Williams’ online activities.

In December 2020, authorities executed a federal search warrant and seized a cellphone belonging to Williams. After inspecting the cell phone, an HSI computer forensics analyst discovered that it contained child sexual abuse material.

Special agents from HSI Harrisonburg and Harrisonburg Police Department officers arrested Williams in August 2021 on charges related to the child sexual abuse material discovered on his cellphone.

A jury found Williams guilty of 50 counts of knowingly possessing child sexual abuse material and 25 counts of distribution of child sexual abuse material April 12.

Individuals across the world can report suspicious criminal activity to the HSI Tip Line 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Highly trained specialists take reports from both the public and law enforcement agencies related to laws enforced by HSI. If you want to report suspicious criminal activity, call the HSI Tip Line at 866-DHS-2423 (866-347-2423) from the United States and Canada or call 802-872-6199 from elsewhere.

C3 was established in 1997 for the purpose of combating crimes committed on, or facilitated by, the Internet. C3 brings together highly technical assets dedicated to conducting trans-border criminal investigations of internet-related crimes within the HSI portfolio of immigration and customs authorities. C3 is responsible for identifying and targeting any cybercrime activity in which HSI has jurisdiction. C3 is made up of the Cyber Crimes Unit, the Child Exploitation Investigations Unit, the Computer Forensics Unit and the Cyber Training & Engagement Unit. This state-of-the-art center offers cyber-crime support and training to federal, state, local and international law enforcement agencies. C3 also operates a fully equipped computer forensics laboratory, which specializes in digital evidence recovery, and offers training in computer investigative and forensic skills.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.