Catawba County Assistant District Attorney Jessica Phillips recently was honored by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation for her work in the prosecution of an international child sex enterprise.
Phillips received the SBI Director’s Partnership Award for Merit during a presentation at the SBI headquarters in Raleigh on May 16, 2023
She was recognized for her work with the SBI, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Homeland Security and forensic computer analysts on a child sex enterprise that originated in the Philippines.
“Ms. Phillips works very hard with all stakeholders in the fight against child exploitation,” 36th Prosecutorial District Attorney Scott Reilly said. “She is very deserving of this merit award.”
ADA Phillips worked closely in conjunction with the SBI’s Internet Crimes Against Children unit as well as Homeland Security to investigate the crimes and build the case that was necessary to bring charges.
“Victims deserve a voice. Children who have been abused have their voices taken. I want to be an advocate for those victims to help restore those voices,” Phillips said. “I appreciate the opportunity to partner with so many agencies. Together, we were able to work to seek and bring justice to the victims of these crimes.”
Phillips was able to successfully prosecute a Hickory man, 76-year-old Robert Oliver Parker, through her efforts working with the multi-agency operation. Parker entered guilty pleas to three counts of second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor in Catawba County Superior Court and was given an active prison sentence of six to 22 years on July 25, 2023.
In August 2020, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Homeland Security received a cyber tip about a user communicating with and receiving sexually explicit images of minor children from an individual in the Philippines. That report was sent to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) for further investigation.
The investigation traced the transmissions to an email account of the defendant. It was discovered that from 2010 to 2020 he received more than 16,000 images from the individual in the Philippines of more than 30 underage girls.
Parker confirmed his relationship with the contact in the Philippines, and that he had traveled there to engage in sexual intercourse with females that involved filming and photographing his interactions with them when interviewed by SBI agents. He denied that the females were underage, and he also told authorities that he sent money to the individual sending images to him on a monthly basis.
When a search warrant was executed for Parker’s residence, investigators seized multiple items. All of those forensically examined were found to contain child sexual assault material. The defendant was observed in thousands of videos engaging in sex with minors. Numerous e-mail conversations were uncovered with the defendant specifically requesting girls and different images/poses of them.
Reilly noted the need to address criminal acts of such a nature to provide protection for children from such abuse.
“The sexual abuse and exploitation of children robs them of their childhood, irrevocably interfering with their emotional and psychological development,” Reilly said. “Our priority is to protect the rights of children to be free from sexual abuse and to protect society from the costs imposed by these crimes.”