(WDVM) — A former foreign service officer from Frederick, Maryland was sentenced Tuesday to 40 years in federal prison followed by lifetime supervised release for producing and transporting child pornography.

Steven Hadley Hassan, 52, admitted to sexually abusing three underage girls between October 2010 and mid-2013 while he was stationed in Manila, Philippines and South Africa, in connection with his work as a Foreign Service Officer for the State Department. 

“Steven Hassan preyed on vulnerable young girls, including foreign nationals, while representing the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur.  “This sentence demonstrates that we will find and bring to justice those who victimize children.”

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Maryland, two of the victims were seven and 11 years old who lived in Manila in 2010 when Hassan offered them food and took them to a local hotel where he sexually abused them. He also had one of the girls take photos of him sexually abusing the other girl. Hassan also brought one of those girls, as well as two other minor girls, to a local Manila hotel on at least three occasions and sexually abused them.  Hassan most recently sexually abused one of the girls in 2015 when he briefly visited the Philippines.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Maryland said Hassan transported his camera and the Secure Digital (SD) memory card within it, which contained the photos documenting the sexual abuse of the minor girls, back to the United States sometime after November 2015. 

From October 2014 through March 2018, Hassan, under a number of different usernames, used an online file-sharing network to distribute child pornography, including images documenting the sexual abuse of prepubescent minors, as well as to engage in online chats, the U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Maryland said.

On January 22, 2018, an undercover investigator downloaded thousands of depictions of child pornography and child erotica from the “shared folder” of the file-sharing program that Hassan made available for download. 

Search warrants were subsequently obtained for Hassan’s residence in Frederick.  Law enforcement seized a laptop computer, camera, and various digital media, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Maryland.

An HSI Computer Forensics Analyst forensically examined all of the digital evidence and discovered thousands of images of child pornography, including the images that depict Hassan, whose face is visible in some of the images, sexually abusing the two girls he met in 2010.  The Analyst also recovered online chats in which Hassan repeatedly discussed his abuse of the three girls and others, and repeatedly sent the images he produced documenting the sexual abuse of two of the girls to other users of the file-sharing program, the U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Maryland said.

In other chats, Hassan provided tips to others about how to meet and abuse minors in the Philippines.

U.S. District Judge Paul W. Grimm also ordered that, upon his release from prison, Hassan must register as a sex offender in the places where he resides, where he is an employee, and where he is a student, under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).  Hassan has been detained since his arrest on June 8, 2018, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Special Agent in Charge John Eisert of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); U.S. Department of State Inspector General Steve A. Linick; and Frederick County Sheriff Charles A. “Chuck” Jenkins.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.  For more information about Internet safety education, please visit www.justice.gov/psc and click on the “Resources” tab on the left of the page.       

United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended HSI-Baltimore and HSI-Philippines, the U.S. Department of State Office of Inspector General, and the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office for their work in the investigation.  Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul A. Riley, who is prosecuting the federal case.

A photo of the defendant was not released.