COLUMBUS, Ohio – A plain-clothed loss prevention officer formerly employed at a Columbus-area Walmart pleaded guilty Monday to one count of receipt of child pornography following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and members of the Franklin County Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) taskforce.
Okey Belcher, 28, of Columbus, faces at least five years and up to 20 years in prison if convicted on the charge.
U.S. Attorney Carter M. Stewart, Southern District of Ohio; Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of HSI Michigan and Ohio; and Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott announced the charge.
"This type of crime is appalling and made even more disturbing when it is carried out by an individual in a position of trust with ready access to the public and especially innocent children," said HSI Special Agent in Charge Moskowitz. "The aggressive investigation and ultimate prosecution of those engaged in this type of activity remains among our highest priorities at HSI."
According to the investigation, Belcher was initially arrested December 2011 by Grove City Police Department officers after he allegedly recorded cellphone video of a child in a Walmart restroom. Officers with the ICAC taskforce obtained a search warrant for Belcher's phone. They found two videos of the exposed child using the restroom.
A forensics examination of an iPod Touch belonging to Belcher also revealed more than 100 images of nude prepubescent boys and girls.
HSI, the federal partner on the Franklin County ICAC taskforce, assisted with the investigation and presented it for federal prosecution.
This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders, and child sex traffickers. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are 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.