PITTSBURGH–Stephen Sims of Palm Springs, Calif., was sentenced Monday by Senior U.S. District Court Judge Gustave Diamond in the Western District of Pennsylvania to 17 years in prison for engaging in a child exploitation enterprise.
The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Pittsburgh and the High Technology Investigative Unit of the Department of Justice Criminal Division, Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS).
The sentence was announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania David J. Hickton and John Kelleghan, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Phildelphia.
Sims, 57, pleaded guilty to one count of engaging in a child exploitation enterprise before U.S. District Court Judge Arthur A. Schwab on July 13, 2010. According to court documents and proceedings, Sims and others distributed images and videos of children being sexually abused to other members of an international group that had restricted membership and was formed on a social networking website. Members of the group distributed to one another thousands of sexually explicit images and videos of children, many of which graphically depicted prepubescent, male children, including some infants, being sexually abused and sometimes sodomized or subjected to bondage.
“Sims and others distributed thousands of images and videos of children, including infants, being sexually abused around the world in an exclusive online forum that the users thought was hidden from justice. They were wrong,” said Special Agent in Charge Kelleghan. “An HSI operation identified them, arrested them and brought them to justice. HSI will continue to protect children and the pursuit of those who would use them for sexual gratification.”
HSI’s involvement in this investigation is part of the agency’s initiative known as Operation Predator, an ongoing enforcement effort targeting those who prey upon and sexually exploit our nation’s children – including Internet pornographers, international sex tourists, and foreign national sexual predators.