A continuing investigation into child exploitation has netted arrests in five states and Norway, including the August arrest of James Bickerstaff of Siloam Springs, according to federal law enforcement officials.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Oklahoma released information about the investigation Friday, identifying Bickerstaff as one of six people arrested.
The FBI and task force partners have rescued child victims in Oklahoma, Texas, Florida, Arkansas, Missouri and Norway, according to the news release and court records.
Cameron Kelly McAbee, 31, of Broken Arrow, Okla., was charged in August in a federal indictment with child exploitation enterprise, sexual exploitation of a child by a parent, receipt and distribution of child pornography, and possession of child pornography in Indian Country, according to the U. S. Attorney's Office.
Investigators discovered an online chat group July 13 that shared child sexual abuse material and determined McAbee was an administrator of the group, according to the news release. Gaining membership in the group required showing photographic proof of having access to a child for the suspected purpose of sharing child sexual abuse material, the FBI said. Continued access to the group required members to produce and share images and videos of the members sexually abusing children.
McAbee is alleged to have posted a "live photo" to the group July 24 depicting the sexual abuse of a child, according to federal agents.
The FBI on July 26 linked the administrator account to McAbee and his Broken Arrow address and executed a search warrant at the home, according to the news release.
McAbee agreed to an interview with FBI agents and confirmed he held an administrative role in multiple groups, including one specifically designed for sharing explicit images and videos of children to which the members had physical access, according to the release.
He said he had traded images of child sexual abuse that would be considered child pornography, including the sexually explicit "live" image he sent of a child to the online chat group July 24, according to the release.
Bickerstaff, 37, was arrested Aug. 24 and is being held in the Benton County Jail on $500,000 cash bond in connection with three counts of distribution, possession or viewing sexually explicit material involving children, sexual grooming of a child and three counts of engaging a child in sexually explicit conduct.
Members of the Northwest Arkansas component of the FBI's River Valley Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force searched Bickerstaff's home and seized several electronic devices, according to a probable cause affidavit filed in Benton County Circuit Court.
Bickerstaff is a registered sex offender with a previous conviction of possession of child pornography, according to the affidavit.
He admitted to taking sexually explicit photographs of a 9-year-old girl and disseminating the images over the internet to a group on the Kik app, according to the probable cause affidavit. He said he took the photographs with his cellphone and instructed the girl how to pose, according to the affidavit.
Bickerstaff said he told someone online he sexually abused the girl but told investigators that wasn't true and he was only bragging, according to the affidavit.
The girl was interviewed at the Children's Advocacy Center of Benton County. She denied being sexually abused by anyone but said Bickerstaff had shown her pornography, according to the affidavit.
Connor Hagan, public affairs officer for the FBI in Little Rock, said the agency is continuing the investigation in several additional states.
Child exploitation arrests
An investigation into a Broken Arrow, Okla., man alleged to have been an administrator for a transnational child exploitation chat group has led to five additional arrests and the rescue of multiple child victims in the United States and Europe, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Northern District of Oklahoma. Thus far, the FBI and task force partners have arrested six individuals and rescued child victims in Oklahoma, Texas, Florida, Arkansas, Missouri and Norway.
Defendants arrested as part of the investigation include James Bickerstaff of Siloam Springs, who was arrested by FBI agents and Benton County law enforcement officers, and four arrests made by the FBI: Cameron McAbee of Broken Arrow, Okla., Eric McCants of San Antonio, Michael McClure of DeFuniak Springs, Fla., and Jeffrey Prowant of Stone County, Mo., according to the news release and court records. Law enforcement authorities in Norway arrested an unnamed subject.
Additional child victims have been brought to safety, and the FBI continues to investigate leads in at least four other states, according to the news release.
Source: U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Oklahoma