A former Helena resident accused of coercing underage girls in Montana to send him sexually explicit images of themselves over the internet pleaded guilty Wednesday, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Montana.
Joshua Dean Fish, 27, of Gilbert, Arizona, pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual exploitation of a child and to receipt of child pornography. Fish faces a mandatory minimum 15 years to 40 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and five years to life of supervised release for each sexual exploitation crime and a mandatory minimum five years to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and five years to life of supervised release for receipt of child pornography.
Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided and set sentencing for Sept. 23. Morris continued Fish’s detention pending further proceedings.
Court documents say that in January 2020, the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office received a report of online sexually explicit activity involving two children, who were under the age of 18. An investigation identified Fish as the person who was offering to pay for the sexually explicit images. Prior to mid-2018, Fish resided in Montana.
The two child victims, one residing in Helena and another residing in Butte, reported that an online user promised monetary digital payments in exchange for nude images that would be sent through the internet. Both child victims sent Fish sexually explicit images of themselves.
An investigation by Arizona law enforcement into a cybertip to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children involving sending and receiving child pornography through a social media application led to Fish.
In June 2020, law enforcement searched Fish’s residence and interviewed him. Fish admitted to paying minor girls for nude images, which were sent to him online, and to possessing numerous hard drives containing child pornography. During an examination of digital devices seized during the search, law enforcement found hundreds of thousands of images and video files of child pornography.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Cyndee L. Peterson is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, FBI, Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office, Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the Gilbert Police Department.
This case was initiated under the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Childhood initiative, which was launched in 2006 to combat the proliferation of technology-facilitated crimes involving the sexual exploitation of children.