U.S. Attorney’s Office
April 12, 2012 Southern District of Indiana
Hogsett Discusses Ongoing Efforts of U.S. Attorney’s Project Safe Childhood Initiative
Says Recent Sextortion Prosecutions Underscore Importance of Protecting Hoosier Children
EVANSVILLE—Joseph H. Hogsett, the United States Attorney, held a press conference in Evansville this morning to discuss ongoing efforts to protect Hoosier children from exploitation. Hogsett specifically pointed to the work of the U.S. Attorney’s Project Safe Childhood initiative, which earlier this week resulted in the charging of an Indiana man on sextortion charges.
“As a member of the law enforcement community, and more important, as a parent, these are the types of cases that keep me up at night,” Hogsett said. “Working with our federal and local law enforcement partners, our nationally-recognized prosecution team is sending a powerful message as to how seriously this office treats any allegations of child exploitation.”
On Monday, Hogsett announced that Richard Leon Finkbiner, age 39, of Brazil, Indiana, has been charged with the sexual exploitation of children by inducing and coercing at least two minors to engage in sexually explicit activity that Finkbiner allegedly captured with a webcam, conduct frequently referred to as sextortion.
Although only two victims have been identified and confirmed at this early stage of the investigation, the complaint further alleges that during the course of the execution of the federal search warrant at Finkbiner’s residence, additional evidence developed. This includes the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s discovery of thousands of sexually explicit images and videos depicting hundreds of individuals, which may indicate the existence of many other victims.
Until initial forensic examinations are complete, it is impossible to estimate the possible number of Indiana victims that may have been affected. The investigation in this case is developing rapidly and still ongoing. As such, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is urging those who may have been victimized or who may have information about possible victims to contact the Indianapolis Cybersquad Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation at (877) 542-8979.
“Unfortunately, allegations such as those included in this criminal complaint have become more common, and as such, we are redoubling our efforts through the Project Safe Childhood initiative to identify and bring to justice those found to be engaging in such disturbing behavior,” Hogsett noted.
This case was brought as part of the U.S. Attorney’s 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 http://www.projectsafechildhood.gov
“I urge anyone with information about this case to contact the federal authorities as we move forward with this investigation,” Hogsett added. “I pledge that our Project Safe Childhood team will continue to be vigorous in the investigation and prosecution of anyone found to be endangering the safety of children here in Indiana or anywhere else.”
Hogsett also stressed the critical role parents play in preventing such crimes, and he offered advice on how to minimize the risk of children becoming a victim of exploitation online. These included:
■Communicate and talk to your child about sexual victimization and potential online danger.
■Spend time with your children online. Have them teach you about their favorite online destinations.
■Utilize parental controls provided by your service provider and/or blocking software. While electronic chat can be a great place for children to make new friends and discuss various topics of interest, it is also prowled by computer-sex offenders. Use of chat rooms, in particular, should be heavily monitored. While parents should utilize these mechanisms, they should not totally rely on them.
■Always maintain access to your child’s online account and randomly check his/her e-mail. Be aware that your child could be contacted through the U.S. mail. Be up-front with your child about your access and reasons why.
■Instruct your children to never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they met online and never upload pictures of themselves onto the Internet or online service to people they do not personally know.
A criminal complaint is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial, at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.