MYRTLE BEACH — Richard Rau, a Conway resident who was caught in an international child pornography investigation, was sentenced to 10 years in prison by federal Judge Bryan Harwell during a hearing Tuesday in Florence.
Rau, 67, pleaded guilty earlier this year to possession of child pornography as part of a plea agreement. Federal prosecutors dropped seven more serious charges of distribution of child pornography in exchange for the guilty plea. Tuesdays sentence was the maximum Rau could have received for the possession charge.
In addition to the prison sentence, Rau was ordered to pay a $17,500 fine and will be on five years of supervised release once his prison term ends. He also must forfeit five computers he owned and must register as a sex offender when he is released from prison.
Homeland Security Investigations discovered an image hosting website used by Rau in which he made suggestive comments about a minor female, according to evidence presented at a hearing earlier this year. Rau also made comments on the website that indicated he was exchanging child pornography with others. A search warrant was obtained for Raus Yahoo email address which revealed multiple exchanges of child pornography. Federal investigators then searched Rays residence, where they seized an iPhone, tablets and computers that contained child pornography.
Federal law enforcement officials learned of Rau during their investigation into an international child pornography ring, according to an affidavit by a Homeland Security Investigations special agent. That group would post non-illicit photographs of children on an Internet site and then contact the sites users to trade illegal child pornography via email, according to the affidavit.
Federal officials have served at least 54 search warrants on individuals who used the same image hosting website as Rau, according to an affidavit. Nearly all of those individuals 52 of the 54 cases allegedly had child pornography images on their computers, according to court documents, and 37 of them have been indentified as contact offenders. In addition, 53 victims have been identified and rescued from further abuse, court records state.
This case against Rau was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Project Safe Childhood combines 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.
The case against Rau was investigated by agents of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Homeland Security Investigations. Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Day prosecuted the case.
Contact DAVID WREN at 626-0281.