Overview and History
Overview and History:
Online Child Pornography/Child Sexual Exploitation Investigations
The Innocent Images National Initiative (IINI) is a proactive, intelligence driven, multi-agency investigative operation that focuses on combating the proliferation of child pornography/child sexual exploitation (CP/CSE) worldwide. The IINI provides centralized coordination and analysis of case information that by its very nature is both national and international in scope and requires unprecedented coordination between FBI field offices and legal attachés and state, local, and international governments.
Today, computer telecommunications have become one of the most prevalent techniques used by pedophiles to not only share illegal images of minors, but to also lure child victims into illicit sexual relationships. The Internet has dramatically increased the access of the preferential sex offender to the population they seek to victimize and provides them with greater access to a community of people who validate their sexual preferences.
The mission of the IINI is to reduce the vulnerability of children to acts of sexual exploitation and abuse that are facilitated through the use of computers; to identify and rescue child victims; to investigate and prosecute sexual predators who use the Internet and other online services to sexually exploit children for personal or financial gain; and to strengthen the capabilities of federal, state, local, and international law enforcement through training programs and investigative assistance.
The History of the Innocent Images National Initiative
While investigating the disappearance of a juvenile in May 1993, FBI special agents and Prince George’s County, Maryland police detectives identified two suspects who had sexually exploited numerous juveniles over a 25-year period. Investigation into these activities determined that adults were routinely utilizing computers to transmit sexually explicit images to minors and in some instances to lure minors into engaging in illicit sexual activity. Further investigation and discussions among experts, both within the FBI and in the private sector, revealed that the utilization of computer telecommunications was rapidly becoming one of the most prevalent techniques by which some sex offenders shared pornographic images of minors and identified/recruited child victims into sexually illicit relationships. In 1995, based upon information developed during this investigation, the Innocent Images National Initiative was started to address the illicit activities conducted by users of commercial and private online services and the Internet.
The IINI is managed by the Innocent Images National Initiative Unit, which is a component of the Cyber Division at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Innocent Images field supervisors and investigative personnel work closely with the Innocent Images National Initiative Unit regarding all IINI investigative, administrative, policy, and training matters. The IINI provides a coordinated FBI response to this nationwide crime problem by collating and analyzing information obtained from all available sources.
Today the FBI’s Innocent Images National Initiative focuses on:
- Online organizations, enterprises, and communities that exploit children for profit and/or personal gain;
- Major distributors of child pornography, such as those who appear to have transmitted large volumes of child pornography on several occasions to several people;
- Producers of child pornography;
- Individuals who travel, or indicate a willingness to travel, for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity with a minor; and
- Large volume possessors of child pornography.
The FBI and the Department of Justice review all files and select the most egregious subjects for prosecution. In addition, the IINI works diligently to identify child victims and obtain appropriate services/assistance for them. It is the IINI’s intent to establish a law enforcement presence on the Internet that will act as a deterrent to those who seek to sexually exploit children.
The Growth of the Innocent Images National Initiative
Over the last several years, the FBI, state and local law enforcement, and the public have developed an increased awareness of the CP/CSE crime problem. More incidents of online CP/CSE are being identified for investigation than ever before. Between fiscal years 1996 and 2007, the number of IINI cases opened throughout the FBI catapulted from 113 to 2,443. From 2007 to the present, the numbers have steadily continued to rise. In April 2012, the FBI had approximately 5,600 pending CP/CSE investigations under the IINI program. As the power and popularity of the Internet continues to expand, the number of CP/CSE cases opened, and the resources utilized to address the CP/CSE crime problem, will likely continue to grow.
The steady increase in Innocent Images investigations demonstrated the need for a mechanism that could not only track subject transactions, but also correlate the seemingly unrelated activities of thousands of subjects in a cyberspace environment. As a result, the Innocent Images Case Management System was developed and has proven to be an effective system to archive and retrieve the information necessary to identify and target priority subjects.
Innocent Images National Initiative Investigations
Each of the FBI’s 56 field offices has worked investigations developed by the IINI. In fact, many FBI field offices contain task forces that combine the resources of the FBI with other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to conduct IINI undercover operations. Additionally, the Department of Justice provides funding for numerous Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Forces, which combine various law enforcement resources to coordinate working IINI investigations. In order to foster a more cohesive working environment, the IINI provides investigative training to all law enforcement members involved in CP/CSE investigations, including those from other federal, state, local, and foreign law enforcement agencies.
During the early stages of IINI, a substantial amount of time was spent conducting investigations on commercial online service providers that provided numerous easily accessible “chat rooms” where teenagers and pre-teens could meet and converse with one another. By using chat rooms, children could talk for hours with unknown individuals, often without the knowledge and/or approval of their parents. Investigation into many of these sites revealed that sex offenders were utilizing the chat rooms to contact children, especially since these children could not determine whether they were chatting with a 14-year-old or a 40-year-old. Today, not only chat rooms but other social networking and online media forums offer the advantage of immediate communication around the world, providing pedophiles with an anonymous means of identifying and recruiting child victims into sexually illicit relationships.
As the years have passed, IINI has expanded its scope to include investigations involving all areas of the Internet and online services including:
- Internet websites that post child pornography;
- Internet news groups;
- Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channels;
- Online groups and organizations (eGroups);
- Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file-sharing programs;
- Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs) and other online forums; and
- Social networking venues.
FBI agents and task force officers go online into predicated locations utilizing fictitious screen names and engaging in real-time chat or e-mail conversations with subjects in order to obtain evidence of criminal activity. Investigation of specific online locations can be initiated through:
- A citizen complaint;
- A complaint by an online service provider;
- A referral from a law enforcement agency; or
- Uncovering the name of the online location (i.e., a chat room) that suggests illicit activity.
International CP/CSE investigations are coordinated through the FBI’s legal attaché program, which continuously work with appropriate international law enforcement entities overseas.
The Innocent Images International Task Force (IIITF) became operational on October 6, 2004 and serves as the largest task force of its kind in the world. The IIITF consists of online child sexual exploitation investigators from around the world, including more than 100 task force officers from 44 different countries. Each year the task force hosts a new member training session that brings newly invited task force officers to the United States to attend a six-week training session where they work side-by-side with special agents of the FBI at the Innocent Images Operations Unit. The IIITF also conducts an annual case coordination meeting where task force members come together in a central location to share best practices and coordinate transnational investigations between members. The IIITF allows for the real-time transfer of information between the FBI and task force members from other countries and successfully brings together law enforcement entities from around the world to address the global crime problem of online child exploitation.
The most common crimes investigated under the IINI are in violation of Title 18 United States Codes (USC):
§ 1462. Importation or Transportation of Obscene Matters
§ 1465. Transportation of Obscene Matters for Sale or Distribution
§ 1466. Engaging in the Business of Selling or Transferring Obscene Matter
§ 1467. Criminal Forfeiture § 1470. Transfer of Obscene Material to Minors
§ 2241(a)(b)(c). Aggravated Sexual Abuse
§ 2251(a)(b)(c). Sexual Exploitation of Children
§ 2251A(a)(b). Selling or Buying of Children
§ 2252. Certain Activities Relating to Material Involving the Sexual Exploitation of Minors
§2252A. Certain Activities Relating to Material Constituting or Containing Child Pornography
§ 2253. Criminal Forfeiture
§ 2254. Civil Forfeiture
§ 2257. Record Keeping Requirements
§ 2260(a)(b).Production of Sexually Explicit Depictions of a Minor for Importation into the U.S.
§ 2421. Transportation Generally
§ 2422. Coercion and Enticement
§ 2423(a). Transportation of Minors with Intent to Engage in Criminal Sexual Activity
§ 2423(b). Interstate or Foreign Travel with Intent to Engage in a Sexual Act with a Juvenile
§ 2425. Use of Interstate Facilities to Transmit Information about a Minor
§ 13032. Reporting of Child Pornography by Electronic Communication Service Providers
The FBI has taken the necessary steps to ensure that the Innocent IINI remains viable and productive through the use of new technology and sophisticated investigative techniques, through coordination of the national investigative strategy, and through a national liaison initiative with a significant number of commercial and independent online service providers. To date, the IINI has been highly successful and has proven to be a logical, efficient, and effective method to identify and investigate individuals who are using the Internet for the sole purpose of sexually exploiting children.
To date there have even been five IINI subjects placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list:
- On December 27, 2000, Eric Franklin Rosser became the first child predator to be placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List. Rosser was charged with the production, distribution, receipt, and transportation of child pornography, as well as conspiracy to do the same. His offenses included the production of a videotape in Thailand that allegedly depicted sexually explicit conduct between him and an 11 year-old female child. In February 2000, Rosser was arrested in Thailand on various charges, including possessing child pornography. He was released on bail and disappeared. A federal grand jury in Indianapolis, Indiana indicted Rosser in March 2000. After a tip from the public, Rosser was again arrested in Thailand on August 21, 2001. The Thai police said Rosser underwent liposuction, had cosmetic surgery to his face, and then traveled to the Netherlands, England, and France before returning to Thailand and being arrested. Rosser served a two-year sentence in Thailand and was then extradited to the United States. Rosser pled guilty and was sentenced on October 24, 2003 to more than 16 years in federal prison. Rosser’s co-conspirator William Platz was sentenced in June 2000 to 11 years in prison.
- On January 31, 2002, Michael Scott Bliss became the second child predator to be placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List. Bliss was being sought by the FBI for the repeated molestation of a nine-year-old female victim in Vermont. Bliss videotaped these molestations, and the videos were converted to computer files for possible placement on the Internet. Bliss had a violent criminal history towards children and served nine years in state prison for committing aggravated assault against his girlfriend’s minor children. During that incident, Bliss repeatedly struck three of his girlfriend’s children with an aluminum baseball bat, rendering two of them unconscious. Bliss was released from prison just two months before the alleged molestations of the nine-year-old began. Bliss was arrested in Los Angeles, California, on April 23, 2002 and was charged in Vermont with 11 federal counts of various statutes related to sexual exploitation of children. Bliss pled guilty to all 11 counts on June 2, 2003 and was sentenced on February 18, 2004 to 22 years in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release.
- On June 14, 2002, Richard Steve Goldberg became the third child predator to be placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List. Goldberg was being sought for engaging in lewd acts in Long Beach, California with several girls under 10 years old. He also produced and possessed child pornography images of these sex acts, which were found on his computer. Goldberg gained the trust of his victims’ parents and then befriended their children. He entertained the girls by allowing them to play with his pets, watch television, and use his computer to play games. Some of these girls also took short trips with him. In July 2001, a state arrest warrant was issued in California charging Goldberg with six counts of lewd acts upon a child and two counts of possession of child pornography. On November 25, 2002, a federal arrest warrant was issued charging Goldberg with the production of child pornography and the unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. On May 12, 2007, Goldberg was arrested in Montreal by Canadian authorities and was extradited to the United States to face federal and state charges of sexual exploitation of children, unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, lewd acts upon a child, and possession of child pornography. Goldberg (age 62) pled guilty and was sentenced on December 10, 2007 to 20 years in federal prison.
- On September 7, 2007, Jon Savarino Schillaci became the fourth child predator to be placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List. Schillaci was being sought for the alleged sexual assault of a young boy in Deerfield, New Hampshire in 1999. Prior to the alleged sexual abuse, Schillaci corresponded with the boy’s family when he was in a Texas prison serving a conviction for child molestation. After his release, Schillaci moved in with the family, who offered him an opportunity at a new life. The alleged sexual abuse occurred later that year. A Rockingham County Superior Court bench warrant was issued for Schillaci in late 1999, and in April 2000 a federal arrest warrant was issued charging Schillaci with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. After almost nine years on the run, Schillaci was captured on June 5, 2008 in San José de Gracia, Michoacán, Mexico. On December 22, 2009, Schillaci was sentenced to 20 to 50 years in prison. He is currently incarcerated in Northern New Hampshire Correctional Facility and will be eligible for parole in December 2039.
- On April 10, 2012, Eric Justin Toth became the fifth child predator to be placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List. Toth is a former private school teacher who is currently being sought for the alleged possession and production of child pornography in Washington, D.C. and Maryland. In June 2008, Toth was indicted in Maryland after pornographic images were found on a school camera that had been in his possession. Toth is a 6’3”, 155 lb. white male with brown hair, green eyes, and a noticeable mole under his left eye. He is often described as a computer “expert” who has demonstrated above-average knowledge regarding computers, the use of the Internet, and security awareness. He has the ability to integrate into various socio-economic classes and is also considered an expert at social engineering. Toth possesses an educational background conducive to gaining employment in fields having connection to children and may advertise himself online as a tutor or male nanny. Since June 2008, Toth is believed to have traveled to Virginia, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Minnesota and is believed to have lived in Arizona in 2009. His current whereabouts are unknown. The FBI is offering a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading directly to the arrest of Eric Justin Toth.
Innocent Images Statistical Accomplishments
Since its inception, the IINI program has continued to grow exponentially, seeing an increase from approximately 80 pending cases in fiscal year 2001 to approximately 5,900 through fiscal year 2012. Also between the years of 2001 to 2011, the IINI program has recorded the following statistical accomplishments:
- Approximate number of informations and indictments: over 10,000
- Approximate number of arrests: over 11,000
- Approximate number of convictions: 11,400
For additional information on the FBI’s Innocent Images National Initiative and Internet safety, please read the FBI brochure titled A Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety. This brochure, as well as other information about crimes against children, is available on the FBI website. Individual FBI field offices serve as primary points of contact for persons requesting FBI assistance. For further information about FBI services or to request assistance, please contact a Crimes Against Children Coordinator at your local FBI field office.
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) operates a CyberTipline at www.cybertipline.com that allows parents and children to report child pornography and other incidents of sexual exploitation of children by submitting an online form. The NCMEC also maintains a 24-hour hotline at 1-800-THE-LOST, and a website at www.missingkids.com.
Complaints received by the NCMEC that indicate a violation of federal law are referred to the FBI for appropriate action. An FBI supervisory special agent and several analysts are assigned full-time at the NCMEC to assist with these complaints. The analysts review and analyze information received by the NCMEC’s CyberTipline. The analysts conduct research and analysis in order to identify individuals suspected of any of the following: possession, manufacture and/or distribution of child pornography; online enticement of children for sexual acts; child sexual tourism; and/or other sexual exploitation of children. The analysts utilize various Internet tools and administrative subpoenas in their efforts to identify individuals who prey on children. Once a potential suspect has been identified, they compile an investigative packet that includes the applicable CyberTipline reports, subpoena results, public records search results, the illegal images associated with the suspect, and a myriad of other information that is forwarded to the appropriate FBI field office for investigation. Both the NCMEC and the FBI are devoted to ensuring the safety of America’s most precious gift…our children.