Federal authorities in Los Angeles asked the public's help Thursday in identifying a man and woman charged with producing child pornography in the San Fernando Valley.
A criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court against the unidentified defendants -- whose pictures were made public -- involves a widely circulated series of child porn images believed to have been taken around the year 2001 in Encino and elsewhere in the region.
While a girl being sexually abused in the images is now likely an adult, authorities continue to pursue the case for several reasons, including bringing the defendants to justice and preventing the abuse of additional victims, prosecutors said.
"We have come to the point where we have exhausted all our investigative techniques and now we are coming to the public," U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said at a press conference in downtown Los Angeles. "We have to do everything we can to identify them."
The pictures in the case show a male and female adult sexually molesting a girl who appears to be about 13. Although the male's face has been purposely obscured, the female's face can be seen in a number of the images.
The male in the photos appears to be between 40 and 50, while the female looks to be between 35 and 45. Both are white.
The defendants would now be about 11 years older. The female has several tattoos, including a black tattoo on her right hip resembling a butterfly, a tattoo on her right shoulder blade depicting the outline of a curled up cat, a tattoo with words across the top of her left wrist and a tattoo on the upper portion of her left breast.
"The images in this series have been identified in connection with more than 275 child pornography investigations across the country," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Los Angeles.
"The reality is, every time a photo or a video of an innocent child being sexually exploited is viewed, that victim is violated again," he said. "That is why we owe it to all of the juvenile victims in these kinds of cases to work tirelessly to seek answers and, ultimately, justice. Those who produce and trade child pornography over the Internet believe they're protected by the anonymity of cyberspace. With the public's help, we're determined to prove them wrong."
Based upon forensic analysis conducted by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, investigators believe the images were produced in the San Fernando Valley. So far, ICE agents in Los Angeles have interviewed dozens of individuals in seeking further leads in the case, but have yet to identify either the adults or the victim in the photographs.
The child pornography images in this case were first discovered by U.S. Homeland Security Investigations agents in Chicago in 2007. The material was submitted to the Child Victim Identification Program, which determined the victim had not yet been identified and was not linked with other known child pornography images.
The announcement of the case against "John and Jane Doe" was made in relation to HSI's Operation Sunflower, a recently concluded enforcement action aimed at rescuing victims and targeting individuals who own, trade and produce child pornography, officials said.
In the Los Angeles area, HSI identified several children who had been subjected to ongoing sexual abuse, and those allegedly responsible are now being prosecuted by the Orange County District Attorney's Office, federal prosecutors said.
"Child pornographers are collectors, and they share these images with others," Arnold said. "It's not profit-motivated. This is just to feed their sick obsession."