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Arrest of Quincy man part of Homeland Security’s ‘Operation Sunflower’ sweep

A Quincy man arrested Nov. 8 by federal authorities for producing and distributing child pornography has agreed to plead guilty and will face 15 to 30 years in federal prison.

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Mickell E. Close, 31, formerly of 2491 County Road 255, Cottage 4, was one of 245 people arrested nationwide as part of Operation Sunflower.

At the time of his arrest, the Examiner reported the convicted sex offender was arrested with help from deputies of the Logan County Sheriff’s Office after special agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations served a search warrant at his residence.

He was indicted on seven charges.

Federal indictments filed with the U.S. Southern District of Ohio state that Mr. Close allegedly used three girls, two 9-year-olds and a 7-year-old, to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing child pornography.

According to the pending agreement, the defendant will plead guilty to one count involving one of the nine-year-old victims, and the government will drop the other charges.

He understands that he faces a minimum sentence of 15 years and a maximum of 30.

A hearing on the agreement has not yet been set.

Operation Sunflower ran from Nov. 1 to Dec. 7 and rescued a total of 123 victims of child pornography during the sweep.

Special agents reportedly have identified and rescued these three children who Mr. Close secretly recorded in a bathroom to produce video and still images that he traded on the Internet.

This activity began in May and continued through the end of September.

In 2000, Mr. Close was convicted of gross sexual imposition involving a 3-year-old female victim in Logan County. He is labeled a sexual predator, according to Logan County Sheriff’s Office Detective Phil Bailey.

Relating to Operation Sunflower, the effort commemorates the one-year anniversary in which the identification of a sunflower-shaped highway road sign led to the rescue of an 11-year-old girl in Kansas.

HSI special agents, working closely with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, partially identified multiple individuals across the country who were sexually abusing young children and taking photos or videos of the acts.

Then special agents worked with the Department of Justice and its Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section to issue national Jane and John Doe warrants to arrest these perpetrators and rescue their victims. The most recent case was solved two weeks ago in Florida.

Of the 123 victims rescued, 44 children were directly rescued from their abusers and 79 were identified as either being exploited by others outside their home or are now adults who were victimized as children.

“We applaud our partners at ICE for their worldwide work in identifying these victims of child sexual exploitation and for helping to remove these children from extremely dangerous situations,” said NCMEC CEO John Ryan.

“We know that there’s more work to be done. Anyone could know these victims, not knowing that they’re being harmed. They could be your neighbors’ children, your child’s classmate, or even your own child.

“We thank Director “John” Morton and everyone at ICE for their strong commitment to rescuing the most vulnerable of victims.”

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