Special Agent in Charge Brad Bench of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Seattle Field Office and U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran announced that a former cheerleading coach, who has a prior state conviction for possession of child pornography, has been sentenced in U.S. District Court in Seattle to nine years in prison for transporting child pornography.
Leonard Bernard Lewis, 33, of Seattle, pleaded guilty in February 2019, admitting that he transported images of child rape and abuse on his personal electronic devices when he traveled from Seattle to London on March 1, 2018.
U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour imposed ten years of supervised release to follow the prison term.
According to records filed in the case, Lewis was traveling to England to continue his career as a cheer coach.
When he arrived and attempted to clear customs at Gatwick Airport, a United Kingdom Border Force Officer asked to examine Lewis’ cell phone.
After being given the password, the officer found several images of child pornography. The cell phone, two laptop computers and Lewis’ PlayStation 4 were seized by law enforcement and Lewis was detained.
Lewis was sent back to the U.S. the next day, and his electronic devices were delivered to HSI.
Forensic examination of Lewis’ electronic devices revealed more than 5,000 images and 2,000 video files of child pornography.
The investigation determined that despite his sex offender status, which prohibited him from working with children, Lewis had been employed at a local gymnastics facility.
Between 2016 and 2018, Lewis was employed as a cheer coach at Tech Gymnastics and All Star Cheer in Woodinville, Washington.
Lewis had used a relative’s Social Security Number so that the facilities’ background check did not reveal Lewis’ registered sex offender status.
Lewis has been a registered sex offender since 2012 when he was convicted of possession of child pornography.
“I could not be more proud of the HSI agents and dedicated law enforcement professionals who worked to bring this dangerous child predator to justice,” said Brad Bench, special agent in charge of HSI Seattle.
“We continue to work daily to keep individuals who seek to harm children out of our communities and away from those they seek to abuse.”
As Special Assistant United States Attorney Cecelia Gregson wrote in her sentencing memo, despite his earlier conviction Lewis continued to seek out images of child rape and abuse and “to engage in conduct that undoubtedly supported an industry thriving on the sexual exploitation and misery of children.”
The case was investigated by HSI and was prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Cecelia Gregson.
Ms. Gregson is a Senior King County Deputy Prosecutor specially designated to prosecute child exploitation crimes in federal court.
HSI’s Operation Predator is an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators.
(Learn More. The DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is developing advanced forensic tools and techniques that help DHS Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) rescue exploited children, track down child pornographers, and obtain convictions against child molesters worldwide. Courtesy of DHS Science and Technology Directorate and YouTube.)
Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 16,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children.
Prior to the creation of the agency in 2003, legacy U.S. Customs special agents investigated the disbursement of illegal child pornography that was often sent by mail or purchased overseas.
HSI is a worldwide leader in the fight against the sexual exploitation of children.
With the advent of the Internet, the sharing and trading of child pornography now primarily occurs online.
In addition to the legacy expertise, HSI special agents also have the authority to investigate the illegal movement of people and goods across U.S. borders, and because the Internet is borderless, the sharing of contraband online is an international crime.
Operation Predator draws on the agency’s unique investigative and enforcement authorities to safeguard children.
An image on the Web of a child being sexually abused can be seen by anyone anywhere in the world.
And, with 200 U.S. offices and more than 70 offices overseas, HSI has the ability to follow a case – to rescue a victim or arrest a predator – wherever in the world it may lead.
As part of ICE’s Cyber Crimes Center (C3), the CEIU uses cutting edge investigative techniques to bring justice to consumers, producers and distributors of child pornography, as well as to predators engaging in child sex tourism.
Collaborating with law enforcement partners around the country and the world, Operation Predator brings together an array of resources to target these child predators.
As part of the effort:
- HSI participates on all 61 Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Forces across the United States, which are led by state and local law enforcement agencies.
- HSI established a National Victim Identification Program at its Cyber Crimes Center, combining the latest technology with traditional investigative techniques to rescue child victims of sexual exploitation.
- HSI is the U.S. representative to the Interpol working group that locates new child sexual abuse material on the Internet and refers cases to the country that the abuse is believed to be occurring in for further investigation.
- Also, HSI special agents stationed internationally work with foreign governments, Interpol and others to enhance coordination and cooperation on crimes that cross borders.
- HSI works in partnership with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and other federal agencies to help solve cases and rescue sexually exploited children.
- HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, joining law enforcement agencies, non-governmental organizations and private sector partners around the world to fight child exploitation information and images that travel over the Internet.
In fiscal year 2016, more than 2,600 child predators were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative and more than 800 victims identified or rescued.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form.
Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.
(Make it harder for predators to hide; download the Operation Predator app today from iTunes or Google Play. Courtesy of ICE .gov and YouTube.)