Oregon man caught in Whatcom Co. child-sex sting sentenced for illegal porn, enticing a minor

A Portland man who traveled to Whatcom County in January 2020 to sexually assault a fictitious 5-year-old girl will spend the next quarter century in a federal prison.

Dirk Tichgelaar, 49, was sentenced March 14 in the Western District of Washington in U.S. District Court to 25 years in prison. He previously pleaded guilty July 29, 2021 to one count of attempted enticement of a minor and possession of child pornography.

Tichgelaar was given a 15-year prison sentence for the enticement of a minor charge and a 10-year prison sentence for the possession of child pornography charge. Tichgelaar will be required to serve his prison sentences consecutively, resulting in 25 years total in federal prison for his crimes, according to federal court records.

He will also be on lifetime supervision following his release from prison, and will be required to register as a sex offender.

Tichgelaar had been in federal custody since his arrest on Jan. 25, 2020, according to a March 18 U.S. Department of Justice press release.

“This defendant acted on his predatory impulse to harm a child — he traveled hundreds of miles thinking he would rape a 5-year-old. The child was fictitious, but his dark intentions were not,” U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman said in a prepared statement in the DOJ press release. “This is a long sentence, but a necessary one, to protect the community.”

Between October 2019 and January 2020, Tichgelaar used an internet-based chat platform, which was known to be associated with trading images of child sexual abuse, to communicate with an undercover U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations agent about the sexual abuse of children. Tichgelaar’s screen name contained the word “Pedo,” The Bellingham Herald previously reported.

The undercover HSI agent posed as the father of a 5-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy. Tichgelaar reached out to the agent and expressed an interest in traveling from Oregon to the undercover agent’s location in Washington state to engage in sexual activity with the 5-year-old girl, federal court documents show.

Federal documents detail numerous conversations between the undercover agent and Tichgelaar, in which they discuss the planned sexual abuse of the 5-year-old girl. The pair also exchanged several emails and photographs, The Herald previously reported.

At one point Tichgelaar made plans to travel from Oregon to Washington, but canceled those plans. He continued to chat with the undercover agent, and often initiated the conversations and expressed an interest in raping the fake 5-year-old child, federal court documents state.

Tichgelaar and the undercover HSI agent then made plans to meet up at a location in Whatcom County.

On the morning of Jan. 25, 2020, Homeland Security agents watched Tichgelaar’s Portland home and truck. An agent then followed Tichgelaar from Oregon to Washington.

Tichgelaar arrived at the meet-up location in Whatcom County around 2:30 p.m. He was then given the address to a hotel in Whatcom County for them to meet at, The Herald previously reported.

Tichgelaar arrived at the hotel at 4:30 p.m. and the undercover HSI agent met him in the lobby. Tichgelaar had a brown paper bag with an “Elsa” dress in it as a gift for the 5-year-old girl, according to federal court records.

Tichgelaar then went to a hotel room with the undercover agent and was arrested.

During an interview with HSI agents and a detective from the Bellingham Police Department, Tichgelaar admitted he was the internet chat user who was exchanging messages and emails with the undercover HSI agent.

Tichgelaar also told law enforcement that he didn’t expect there to be evidence of child pornography on the devices at his Portland home, because “he regularly used cleaning software to wipe his digital media,” the records state.

Tichgelaar said he had previously received and finished treatment for his sexual attraction to children, and admitted that he knew what he spoke to the undercover agent about was illegal, federal documents state.

A court-authorized search of Tichgelaar’s Portland home resulted in the seizure of multiple electronic devices, including a thumb drive with multiple images of child sexual abuse, according to the DOJ press release.

Tichgelaar was already a registered sex offender following a 2005 conviction in Oregon for first-degree sexual abuse, the release states.

“In safeguarding our communities’ youth, including those as young as 5 years old, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) remains resolute in our mission to combat child exploitation. The recent sentencing of Tichgelaar exemplifies our unwavering commitment to utilizing every available resource to protect innocent children from predators,” Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer, who oversees HSI operations in the Pacific Northwest, said in a prepared statement in the press release. “This case underscores the importance of our ongoing efforts to ensure a safer environment for our most vulnerable members and highlights the necessity of continued vigilance in combating child exploitation.”

The case against Tichgelaar was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse, the release states.


Brigid Collins Family Support Center: 360-734-4616, brigidcollins.org

Brigid Collins Family Support Center professionals are on-call between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., Monday through Friday, to answer questions about children, families, abuse prevention or treatment at (360) 734-4616.

Child Protective Services: Washington state hotline for reporting child abuse and neglect, 866-829-2153.

Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Services: 24-hour Help Line: 360-715-1563, Email: info@dvsas.org.

Lummi Victims of Crime: 360-312-2015.

Tl’ils Ta’á’altha Victims of Crime: 360-325-3310 or nooksacktribe.org/departments/youth-family-services/tlils-taaaltha-victims-of-crime-program/

Bellingham Police: You can call anonymously at 360-778-8611, or go online at cob.org/tips.

WWU Consultation and Sexual Assault Support Survivor Advocacy Services: 360-650-3700 or wp.wwu.edu/sexualviolence/.

If you or a child is in immediate danger, call 911 and make a report to law enforcement.

To report child abuse or neglect call 1-866-END HARM.