An Alton man has been sentenced to more than 33 years in federal prison and a lifetime term of supervised release for live-streaming the sexual abuse of a child.
Travis Varble, 42, was caught after law enforcement officials in Auburn, Ala. conducting an unrelated investigation discovered a recorded video containing child pornography. The perpetrator and child victim in the video were unidentified so officers forwarded the evidence to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
NCMEC is supported by a number of law enforcement partners, including Homeland Security Investigations, which is the criminal arm of U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement.
Homeland Security investigated the video recovered in Auburn and found evidence suggesting that the sexual abuse may have taken place in Southern Illinois. HSI investigators in St. Louis were assigned and determined that the perpetrator was Varble.
HSI also discovered a second video of Varble sexually abusing the same child. Investigators learned that Varble live-streamed his sexual abuse and that others viewing the live stream recorded the abuse and further distributed the recorded videos on the Internet.
“It is difficult to imagine much that is more reprehensible than molesting a child, but Mr. Varble found a way to aggravate his deviance by live-streaming the abuse over the Internet for other depraved individuals to view,” said U.S. Attorney Steven Weinhoeft. “The case highlights the fact that child pornography isn’t a crime involving anonymous images on the Internet. Rather, each image represents a real person, a child being overpowered by an adult who knows better. We will prosecute these cases as aggressively as the law allows.”
Evidence at sentencing established that the victim was under the age of 12, and that Varble
had been providing care to the child at the time when the abuse took place.
“We praise the work done by Homeland Security Investigations and its National Child Victim Identification System for their efforts on this particular case, and for their ongoing effort to rescue child victims and identify those who commit these awful crimes.”
During the investigation, agents learned that Varble had been separately prosecuted in Madison County for sexually abusing the same victim. Varble was sentenced to a 17-year prison sentence in the Danville Correctional Center for predatory criminal sexual assault of a victim under 13 and aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a victim under 13 in the state court prosecution.
Varble was indicted in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois in March 2018 on two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor and one count of distribution of child pornography. He pleaded guilty in January and was sentenced Aug. 1 to 398 months in federal prison, which is to be followed by a lifetime term of supervised release.
U.S. District Court Judge Staci M. Yandle handed down the sentence. The sentence she imposed was initially calculated at 444 months. However, Yandle gave Varble credit for the 46 months that he has already served in state prison for related criminal conduct, thereby resulting in the 398-month sentence. The federal prison term was ordered to run concurrently with the state sentence Varble is currently serving.
The case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in 2006 by the U.S. 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 information about Project Safe Childhood, visit www.usdoj.gov/psc.
For information about Internet safety education, visit www.usdoj.gov/psc and click on the tab “Resources.”