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Federal Jury Convicts Member of International Child Exploitation Conspiracy
A Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, man was convicted today by a federal jury on child pornography charges relating to his participation in two websites that were operated for the purpose of coercing and enticing minors to engage in sexually explicit conduct on web camera.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department's Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente of the Eastern District of Virginia and Section Chief Calvin Shivers of the FBI's Violent Crimes Against Children Section (VCACS) made the announcement.
Brain K. Hendrix, 42, was charged by superseding indictment on July 23, 2015. Eight co-conspirators were charged in the Eastern District of Virginia and two co-conspirators have been charged in foreign countries. The investigation, Operation Subterfuge, identified more than 300 minor victims and an estimated 1,600 minors were lured to the websites. U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis of the Eastern District of Virginia presided over the trial.
According to court records and evidence at trial, co-conspirators created false profiles on social networking sites, such as YouTube, that portrayed them as young teenagers. They used these profiles to lure children to the websites they controlled. Once on the conspirators' websites, the conspirators played pre-recorded videos of prior minor victims, often engaging in sexually explicit conduct, to make the new victims think that they were chatting with another minor. Using these videos, conspirators coerced and enticed children to engage in sexually explicit activity on their own web cameras which the website automatically recorded. Based on their contribution to the success of website objectives, conspirators earned points, which allowed them access to the sexually exploitative videos of children. Law enforcement agencies have disabled both websites.
In addition to Hendrix, the conspirators have been convicted and sentenced as follows:
Name, Age, Hometown Status Anthony Evans, 54, of Grahamstown, South Africa Pleaded guilty in South Africa and was sentenced to 10 years in prison on May 29, 2015. An extradition request remains pending. William J. Morgan, 36, of Essex, New York Pleaded guilty on June 26, 2015. Sentenced to 21 years in prison on Sept. 18, 2015. Milton Smith Jr., 34, of Lorton, Virginia Pleaded guilty on Aug. 14, 2015. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 22, 2016. James E. Hancock, 45, of Thomasville, Georgia Pleaded guilty on Dec. 29, 2015. Sentencing is scheduled for April 1, 2016. Christopher McNevin, 37, of Carlisle, Ohio Pleaded guilty on Aug. 21, 2015. Sentenced to 19 years in prison on Dec. 4, 2015 Carl Zwengel, 51, of Princeton, Illinois Pleaded guilty on July 10, 2015. Sentenced to 18 years in prison on Oct. 2, 2015. Karlo Hitosis, 32, of Bronx, New York Pleaded guilty on Oct. 30, 2015. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 5, 2016. Stephen Funk, 35, Milwaukee Pleaded guilty on Dec. 18, 2015. Sentencing is scheduled for March 25, 2016.
VCACS special agents led the investigation with the assistance of FBI's Operation Rescue Me, the FBI's Digital Analysis and Research Center and the Office of Victim Assistance. The South Africa Police Service, Family Violence, Child Protection, and Sexual Offenses, Gauteng; Royal Canadian Mounted Police, National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre; the Dutch Police Service Agency, KLPD, and the Australian Federal Police, Child Protection Operations, Sydney all worked closely with VCACS and were active partners in Operation Subterfuge, a multinational investigation coordinated by members of the FBI's Violent Crimes Against Children International Task Force. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre, identified 43 victims as part of the operation. The U.S. Attorney's Offices and FBI offices in the Middle District of Georgia, Southern District of New York, Northern District of New York, Eastern District of Wisconsin, Middle District of Tennessee, Central District of Illinois and Southern District of Ohio, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children also contributed to the investigation and prosecution. Trial Attorney Lauren Britsch of the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) and Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy Doherty-McCormick prosecuted the case. CEOS Trial Attorney Ravi Sinha assisted with the prosecution. The Criminal Division's Office of International Affairs also provided assistance.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys' Offices and CEOS, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.
For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.
[Source: DOJ, Office of Public Affairs, Project Safe Childhood, Criminal Division, USAO, Virginia, Eastern, 08Jan16]
Corruption and Organized Crime
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