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BOSTON — A Maine man pleaded guilty June 28 to sexual exploitation of children and distribution of a video depicting the sexual abuse of children following an international investigation led by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New England.
According to court documents, Joseph Zoll, 63, of Sanford, used an online chat and webcam application from his home in Maine to direct an individual in the Philippines to livestream a video of herself sexually abusing a prepubescent child. Zoll instructed this individual to, among other things, expose the child’s genitals to the camera for him to see and discussed with her his desire to sexually abuse the child. In another instance, Zoll sent this same individual a video depicting an adult woman sexually abusing a child who appeared to be approximately six to eight years old. Zoll communicated with this woman for over two years, during which time he repeatedly instructed her to livestream video depictions of child sexual abuse.
Video files found on electronic devices in his home confirm that he had similar online relationships with multiple other individuals who, at Zoll’s direction, livestreamed video depictions of themselves sexually abusing children for him.
“Homeland Security Investigations is proud to work with our partners in the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maine, and with our law enforcement partners in the Philippines to net results like today’s plea. Our agents work every day to investigate and identify those who participate in these horrific crimes against children both here in New England and abroad,” said HSI New England Special Agent in Charge Michael J. Krol.
Zoll pleaded guilty to one count of sexual exploitation of children and one count of distribution of child pornography. He faces a mandatory minimum penalty of 15 years in prison and a maximum penalty of 50 years. A sentencing date has not been set. A federal district court judge will determine his sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Krol made the announcement with Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Darcie N. McElwee for the District of Maine.
HSI New England is investigating the case. Trial attorney William G. Clayman of the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig M. Wolff for the District of Maine are prosecuting the case.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the U.S. attorneys’ offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit https://www.justice.gov/psc.
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.
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