Earlier this month, Jason Van Hoesen, 46, pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography, a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison. As part of the plea agreement, Van Hoesen agreed not to seek a sentence of less than five years in prison; a sentencing hearing is scheduled for October 5. According to local law enforcement, Van Hoesen will remain in custody while awaiting sentencing.

Van Hoesen, who was residing in Mountain Village at the time law enforcement began investigating the case, was indicted on May 3, 2019, following an investigation triggered when Van Hoesen uploaded a photo of a nude boy between the ages of 6 and 10 to the Microsoft search engine Bing. Bing subsequently reported the illegal image to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), which analyzes such reports and submits the information as a secure “cybertip” to the state’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, based at the Colorado Springs Police Department. When Colorado ICAC investigator Keith Brown reviewed the cybertip and determined the jurisdiction in which the crime had occurred, the Mountain Village Police Department was notified and began an investigation of Van Hoesen in conjunction with the ICAC task force.

“We were contacted on January 22, 2019, by The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force out of Colorado Springs,” Mountain Village Chief Chris Broady said. “More specifically, officer Erika Moir took the initial call and worked this case from start to finish. Officer Moir's passion and dedication to this case was admirable, and I am very proud of the work she did to protect our community,” adding that Van Hoesen had not had any prior record to his knowledge.

According to the plea document, Moir obtained information identifying the residence and its inhabitants linked to the IP address used to upload the felonious image, including an email address that Van Hoesen later confirmed to be his. On Feb. 8, ICAC investigators executed a search warrant at his residence, conducting on-scene interviews of both Van Hoesen and his roommate, as well as a search of the roommate’s electronic devices, which came back free of child sexual abuse imagery. In the interview in the hallway of the residence, Van Hoesen acknowledged uploading the image of the nude boy to Bing, saying he was “just (expletive) around,” and replying “probably” to the detective’s inquiry whether Van Hoesen was also looking for other sexually explicit images of children. The plea document stated that Van Hoesen admitted to having “gigabytes of child pornography on his old Amazon Kindle” that would “include preteens and maybe a few toddler images,” though he denied photographing any children himself.

During the search, investigators seized multiple digital storage devices belonging to Van Hoesen, which were subsequently analyzed by the ICAC Task Force in Colorado Springs, which found more than 10,500 images of child sexual abuse, including 281 videos. According to a Department of Justice press release, “Van Hoesen had extensively organized his collection into folders, including folders containing images of infants and toddlers.” The plea document also states that a confiscated flash drive contained a document entitled “My Pedophilia by Jason Van Hoesen,” detailing his 25-year history of sexual attraction to young children, along with other files describing his depravities.

According to NCMEC, of the images possessed by Van Hoesen, 4,400 of them portrayed minor victims “previously identified by law enforcement.” As part of the plea agreement, Van Hoesen agreed to pay restitution of $3,000 each to the 20 minor victims who requested it. By law, victims and their families are entitled to seek restitution and are notified every time someone is convicted of possessing their sexual abuse images.

According to reporting by the New York Times, one such family received approximately 100 notifications per year over four years that their child’s illegal images were being newly viewed. The proliferation of child sexual abuse imagery online has ballooned in recent years with over 45 millions images and videos reported to NCMEC in 2018 alone.

Despite the passage of the Protect Our Children Act in 2008, which aimed at reducing and preventing child exploitation in the U.S., the law has been considered largely a failure by experts, with vastly insufficient funding and reporting requirements laying the grounds for the current reality: Not nearly enough manpower to investigate the shocking number of internet crimes against children.

In a study based on data collected through 2014 by NCMEC, findings showed that a majority of such cases involved a male perpetrator unrelated to the victim. In many cases, perpetrators use online tools such as chat rooms, social media and messaging services to entice victims, often posing as minors themselves, with 78 percent of reports containing online enticement involving girls, and 15 percent involving boys, according to NCMEC data. For this reason, the ICAC Task Force website (icactaskforce.org) states that “the best tool we have to prevent internet crimes against children is education,” and offers resources for parents, educators and others wishing to learn how to better promote internet safety for youth.

“It’s important to realize although we do live in a utopia and a wonderful place most of the time, we do need to be aware of these things, unfortunately,” Broady said. “While this appears to be an isolated case for the area, parents should always be alert of what their children are doing on the internet, who they are talking to and be mindful of surroundings, both here and when traveling.”