Those who obtain, produce or share underage pornography images may not realize it, but there is a growing law enforcement presence on the Internet dedicated to stopping such activity. People arrested and accused of these sex crimes are often taken by surprise when the people they thought they were sharing underage pornography with turn out to be online detectives.
One of those people is a 32-year-old Madison man was arrested and charged last week in Dane County Circuit Court. According to a criminal complaint, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children forwarded a tip to Wisconsin's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force in November 2009 alleging that the man had posted images on the Internet that contained underage pornography. The tip included the man's screen name and email address, allowing undercover detectives to investigate him.
As part of their investigation, authorities obtained a warrant to examine documents from the suspect's Yahoo account, which included images of underage pornography, the criminal complaint said. The investigation came to a head in May 2011 when an undercover detective in Boise, Idaho, said he received a file from the defendant's email account. The criminal complaint says the file contained a six-minute video of children engaging in sexually explicit conduct.
From there police served a search warrant at the man's home, during which time he allegedly admitted downloading underage pornography and distributing it via email and instant messaging, according to the complaint. He was charged last week with sexually exploiting a child, which could result in prison time and a requirement to register as a sex offender if he's convicted.
The original tip was made through the CyberTipline program, an online service that allows any citizen to report sexual exploitation and many other crimes against children. The tips are then forwarded to the proper law enforcement agency to investigate. Of course, not all claims of wrongdoing turn out to be true. But if someone files a report against you, it's possible you'll be investigated without your knowledge. Even if the allegations are false, you'll need the help of a highly competent attorney who's experienced in defense of sex crimes.
Source: Wisconsin State Journal, "Madison man arrested for alleged child porn," May 31, 2012