HOUSTON — Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. recognized five special agents and one group supervisor from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) with the Assistant Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service Jan. 19 during the 2022 U.S. Department of Justice Criminal Division Assistant Attorney General Awards in Washington, D.C.
The annual awards ceremony recognizes personnel from DOJ and the law enforcement community for outstanding achievements in public service.
The catalyst for HSI personnel receiving the award was a transnational child exploitation investigation dubbed “Operation Whiplash” that targeted hosts, owners, network administrators and moderators who were operating internet relay chats to share child sexual abuse material.
Among the six individuals from HSI who were recognized included five from HSI Philadelphia who led the investigation, and one from HSI Houston who worked with HSI Philadelphia to coordinate with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecutions taking place in the Southern District of Texas and also traveled to the United Kingdom to assist in other areas of the investigation.
Six individuals from DOJ who worked alongside HSI to prosecute criminal wrongdoing found as a result of the investigation were also recognized during the ceremony.
To date, Operation Whiplash has resulted in the indictment and arrest of 17 network administrators involved in the distribution of child sexual abuse material in the U.S. and Europe and is directly credited with a total of 22 arrests, 22 indictments and 10 convictions. The investigation has also spawned 17 collateral investigations and numerous investigative referrals leading to an additional 16 arrests, 14 indictments and 4 convictions.
“One of HSI’s greatest priorities is to unmask child predators around the world who seek to hide their identities behind a supposed veil of anonymity on the internet. Our HSI special agents and criminal analysts have the skills, technology, and drive to lift this veil and expose these criminals and their heinous crimes to the world,” said Special Agent in Charge William S. Walker, HSI Philadelphia. “These awards personify the dedication of HSI personnel in Philadelphia and Houston who, working side-by-side, dismantled a network prolific purveyors and distributors of child sexual abuse material located across the globe. I am proud of the dedicated investigators and prosecutors who, through cooperation and personal sacrifice, have once again safeguarded our children from such threats.”
“Without the tireless effort by everyone who worked on this investigation to successfully root out the network administrators and other individuals involved in providing these outlets for child sexual abuse material to be shared, predators from around the globe would have continued to remain free to victimize an untold number of innocent children using these platforms,” said Special Agent in Charge Mark Dawson, HSI Houston. “Their efforts to dismantle these vile networks and put the individuals responsible behind bars are truly worthy of recognition and I commend them for their unyielding commitment to protect our most vulnerable population.”
HSI is recognized as a global leader in combatting child exploitation, and is committed to utilizing its vast authorities, international footprint and strong partnerships to identify and rescue child victims, identify and apprehend offenders, prevent transnational child sexual abuse, and help make the internet a safer place for children. HSI personnel around the world work tirelessly to protect children from exploitation by predators who are involved in the production, distribution and possession of child sexual abuse material and who travel internationally to engage in illicit sexual conduct with minors.
HSI employs the latest technology to collect evidence and track the activities of individuals and organized groups who sexually exploit children using the dark web, chat rooms, peer-to-peer trading and other internet-based platforms. This critical public safety mission is supported by the HSI Child Exploitation Investigations Unit (CEIU), which is housed within the HSI Cyber Crimes Center (C3). The CEIU provides assistance to HSI field offices; coordinates major investigations; conducts operations throughout the world to identify and rescue child victims and to identify and apprehend offenders; and delivers training to HSI personnel as well as state, local, federal and international law enforcement partners.
HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.