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Former Federal Contractor Sentenced for Disclosing National Defense Information and Distributing Child Pornography

U.S. Attorney’s Office November 14, 2013
  • Southern District of Indiana (317) 226-6333

INDIANAPOLIS—United States Attorney Joseph H. Hogsett announced this morning that Donald J. Sachtleben, age 55, of Carmel, a former FBI bomb technician who later worked as a government contractor for the agency, has been sentenced to 140 months (11 years, eight months) in federal prison after pleading guilty to possessing and distributing child pornography, as well as unlawfully disclosing national defense information relating to a disrupted terrorist plot.

“This case began as an investigation into images of child exploitation—but soon took investigators to Carmel to Washington to the Arabian Peninsula and back again,” Hogsett said. “It doesn’t matter who you are, or what you have done in the past. If you choose to violate the sacred trust of the public, you will be caught, and you will be held fully accountable.”

As part of his petition to plead guilty, Sachtleben admitted his role in the two national security charges as well as the two child pornography offenses. U.S. District Judge William T. Lawrence sentenced the defendant to a total of 140 months of incarceration, including a 43-month prison term for the national security offenses and a consecutive 97-month term for the pornography charges.

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Child Pornography Case

According to a criminal complaint filed in Indiana in May 2012, federal and state investigators became aware of an individual trading images of child pornography online in September 2010. An extensive investigation into that individual led to the arrest of a defendant in Illinois in January 2012. Upon arrest, a forensic search of that defendant’s computer equipment and e-mail accounts allegedly revealed that he had been actively trading the explicit materials online with numerous other people.

Based on that information, law enforcement traced the alleged online activity to Sachtleben’s home in Carmel. After conducting several days of surveillance, a search warrant was executed on May 11, 2012, by law enforcement officers from the Indiana State Police and the FBI Cyber Crime Task Force. Sachtleben was charged in the Southern District of Indiana with possession and distribution of child pornography.

An initial forensic examination of Sachtleben’s laptop computer revealed the presence of approximately 30 images and video files containing child pornography. A number of files identified during this initial search matched those that had been found while investigating the Illinois defendant. Sachtleben’s laptop hard drive was found to contain references to other files known to have been in the possession of the Illinois defendant.

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National Security Case

On May 2, 2012, nine days before Sachtleben was arrested in Indiana on child pornography charges, Sachtleben knowingly and willfully disclosed national defense information to a reporter for a national news organization not entitled to receive it. Sachtleben has admitted that he had reason to believe that this information could be used to the injury of the United States and to the advantage of a foreign nation. He was also charged and plead guilty to willfully retaining documents relating to the national defense without authorization.

Sachtleben worked for the FBI from 1983 through 2008. During his career, he was a special agent bomb technician and was assigned to work on many major cases involving terrorist attacks. In his work as an FBI employee, Sachtleben held a top secret security clearance and had regular access to classified and national defense information relating to the FBI’s activities, as well as the activities of other members of the U.S. intelligence community.

In 2008, Sachtleben retired from the FBI and was rehired as a contractor. Because of his official responsibilities, he maintained his top secret security clearance as an FBI contractor. As a result, he continued to have regular access to classified and national defense information relating to the FBI’s activities, as well as the activities of other members of the U.S. intelligence community. As a contractor, he routinely visited the FBI Lab in Quantico, Virginia.

One of the criminal charges addressed Sachtleben’s contacts with the reporter relating to the disruption of a plot to conduct a suicide bomb attack on a U.S.-bound airliner by the Yemen-based terrorist organization al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the recovery by the United States of a bomb in connection with that plot. As a result of Sachtleben’s disclosure of national defense information to the reporter, the national security of the United States was compromised, a significant international intelligence operation was placed in jeopardy, and lives were put at risk.

Sachtleben was employed as an FBI contractor until on or about May 11, 2012. The following day, he was arrested in Indiana and charged by complaint with the federal child pornography charges.

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The national security investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Washington Field Office, with assistance from the FBI’s Indianapolis Field Office. The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jonathan M. Malis and G. Michael Harvey of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and Trial Attorney Richard S. Scott of the Counterespionage Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. Assistance was provided by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mona N. Sahaf of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, and Senior Litigation Counsel Steven D. DeBrota of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana, who is also prosecuting the child pornography case.

The child pornography investigation was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more on Project Safe Childhood, visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.