Cyber crimes investigators serving search warrants each week on child porn predators

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UPDATE: Prosecutors say Michael Sermersheim entered a plea deal in Jan. 2017, which calls for an eight-year executed sentence on four counts of child exploitation, each a Level 5 Felony. 

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (July 22, 2105) - Cyber crimes investigators with the Indiana State Police say they've been serving at least one search warrant per week on suspects of child pornography.

Indiana has seen a large number of recent high profile and disturbing child pornography cases.

On April 29, the former Executive Director of the Jared Foundation, Russell Taylor, was arrested and charged with child pornography and exploitation.

On July 7, investigators from multiple departments raided the home of suspended Subway spokesman, Jared Fogle. Fogle has yet to be arrested or charged for any crimes.

On July 21, a Shelbyville man was arrested in what investigators are calling the most "prolific disseminator of child pornography in Indiana."  Michael Sermersheim was arrested on multiple counts of child exploitation and  possession of child pornography.

CBS4 got a rare look inside the state police mobile forensic's lab. It was the same lab used in the search of Taylor, Fogle, and Sermersheim's homes. Investigators use the mobile lab to quickly search through picture and video evidence to get an arrest. They will then take the remaining evidence to use to build a stronger case in court. Investigators say it's important to get evidence quickly to prevent other children from becoming victims.

“Whenever we do a search warrant, we’ll do an on scene triage where we’ll bring material out to our mobile forensics vehicle and have two or three examiners or recovery specialists on scene to actually look through the material," said Indiana State Police Sgt. Matt Simmons.

The cases often take months to investigate. State Police investigators spend countless hours combing through videos and images. Sgt. Simmons says he worked a recent case where he had to go through more than two terabytes worth of footage.

The investigations start usually by tips made to The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Those tips often come via social media.

“As of last year, I believe we had 16 or 17 hundred tips for our state that came through the Center for Missing or Exploited Children," said. Sgt. Simmons.

He said ISP investigators will likely receive that amount or more this year, too.

Investigators can also search for child porn predators the same way those criminals search for child porn. Investigators can type in key words and phrases that can help lead them to an IP address of a suspected disseminator.

“Once we’re able to identify where somebody is, then we can go and get their computer and do a forensic examination," Sgt. Simmons said.

While investigators won't say if any of the recent high profile cases are connected, Sgt. Simmons said it's likely the men arrested for child porn were viewing the same videos and pictures. He said some suspects join groups where they freely trade child pornography. Many of the videos and images suspects view are obtained from popular websites.

"You have to assume that once something is put on the internet, that as soon as it’s put out there, it’s spread across the world before you even realize it," said Sgt. Simmons.

In Indiana, the majority of arrests involving child porn are usually the suspects that share images and videos, however, investigators have arrested some suspects who have produced content. State police investigators work closely with the Center for Missing and Exploited Children to quickly identify the victims involved.

While it may seem like child pornography cases are on the rise, investigators say technology to catch them is also improving, aiding in more arrests. Sgt. Simmons says it's hard to catch every suspect though because there are far fewer investigators than there are child porn criminals. There are five investigators with the Indiana State Police that deal specifically deal with child porn investigations. Each investigators has between 10 and 12 cases at a time.

"There’s more people out there in Indiana and all over the country that are actively engaged in trading child pornography. there’s so many of them and so few investigators," Sgt. Simmons said.

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