Covering Louisiana

Aug 15, 2012 4:31 PM by KATC

Life sentence handed down in major online child porn ring

Shreveport, La.: United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced today that four additional defendants were sentenced yesterday, one defendant receiving life for their
involvement in an international criminal network organized to sexually exploit children in connection with their participation in the Dreamboard Child Exploitation bulletin board.

Robert Sprague, 63, of Ferndale, Wash., was sentenced to life in prison for participating in a child exploitation enterprise. Sprague was a high level member of Dreamboard, making 560 posts containing hard core child pornography. Prior to joining Dreamboard, he was convicted of two counts of molesting juveniles after molesting two girls, ages four and six. After being convicted of those crimes, on three separate occasions, the defendant was convicted of possession of child pornography.

At the sentencing Sprague stated that he was "hardwired" to be sexually interested in young children and that he would continue to search out child pornography after he got
out of jail. The defendant argued that a minimal sentence was appropriate. The Court advised the defendant that the sentence imposed should send a message to anyone who
would engage in similar activities that this defendant was engaged in. Those who choose to exploit children should be warned.

The three remaining defendants sentenced today were all lower to mid-level members of Dreamboard. Steven Perez, 24, of Santa Ana, Calif., was sentenced to 19 years 7 months in prison for conspiracy to advertise child pornography; Matthew McKee, 32, of Maumee, Ohio, was sentenced to 22 years in prison; and Henry Hand, 23, of East Brunswick, N.J., was sentenced to 20 years in prison, both for participating in a child exploitation enterprise. All of the defendants were sentenced to lifetime supervised release after they have served their prison terms. The sentences were handed down by U.S. District Judge S. Maurice Hicks in federal court in Shreveport, La.

To date, 42 out of 72 individuals have been convicted for their participation in an international child exploitation network. The network was dedicated to the sexual abuse
of children and the creation and dissemination of graphic images and videos of child sexual abuse throughout the world.

The charges against these defendants were a result of Operation Delego, an ongoing investigation that was launched in December of 2009 that targeted individuals around the world for their participation in Dreamboard. Dreamboard was a private, members-only, online bulletin board that was created and operated to promote pedophilia and encourage the sexual abuse of very young children in an environment designed to avoid law enforcement detection. Operation Delego represents the largest prosecution to date in the United States of individuals who participated in an online bulletin board conceived and operated for the sole purpose of promoting child sexual abuse, disseminating child pornography and evading law enforcement.

All 72 of the defendants were charged with conspiring to advertise and distribute child pornography, and 50 of the defendants were also charged with engaging in a child
exploitation enterprise. Out of the 72 charged defendants, 55 have been arrested in the United States and abroad, 42 individuals have pled guilty, and one defendant was convicted after a four-day jury trial. Forty of the forty-one individuals who have pled guilty for their roles in the conspiracy have been sentenced to prison and have received sentences ranging between ten years and life. Thirteen of the 72 charged individuals remain at large and are
known only by their online identities. Efforts to identify and apprehend these individuals continue.

The investigation was 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.

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