TRENTON, N.J. – A Georgia man living in Long Island, N.Y., was indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday for child exploitation charges. The charges follow an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Richard J. Simone Jr., 23, of Acworth, Ga., is charged with one count of traveling across state lines for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct with a minor and one count of distribution of child pornography. Simone was initially arrested in September.
"Criminals who view and distribute child pornography further the re-victimization of innocent children who have already experienced terrible abuse," said HSI Newark Special Agent in Charge Andrew McLees. "In addition to the harm child predators cause children, they also do severe damage to our society. HSI will continue to investigate and seek prosecution wherever these individuals may be found."
According to the indictment filed Thursday by U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman, beginning in July, an undercover HSI special agent began communicating via the Internet with Simone. During the next three months, Simone and the undercover agent engaged in numerous, graphic online communications regarding Simone having sex with the undercover agent’s fictitious 9-year-old daughter and fictitious minor babysitter.
During an online conversation in August, Simone sent nine images of child pornography to the undercover agent. On Sept. 13, Simone traveled from Long Island, where he was living, to Monmouth County for the purpose of having sex with the undercover agent’s fictitious daughter and babysitter. Simone was arrested upon his arrival at the location in Monmouth County where he and the undercover agent had arranged to meet prior to the sexual conduct.
If convicted, Simone faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine for engaging in illicit sexual conduct with a minor. The distribution of child pornography charge carries a mandatory minimum of five years, a maximum penalty of 20 years and a $250,000 fine.
In addition to HSI Newark, the West Long Branch Borough Police Department, HSI New York, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office assisted with the investigation.
This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers. 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.
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, 1-800-843-5678.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.