By a Biometrica staffer
Ten men from around the US have been sentenced for taking part in a child pornography enterprise and conspiracy, the US Department of Justice said in a statement. Of the ten, three are based in New York, two in Washington, and one each from New Jersey, Kansas, North Carolina, Illinois and Pennsylvania.
Between November 2016 and July 2018, these defendants and other co-conspirators outside of the US utilized chatrooms on the online service ‘Discord’ to produce and exchange child pornography. Discord is an app designed for online gaming communities that allows users to engage in text chat and share images and videos. These chatrooms were accessed by invitation only.
Those who gained access to the chatrooms actively worked together to identify social media platforms and profiles of minor females, including girls as young as 10 years old, and strategized how to convince the children to engage in sexually explicit activity via live web camera. The group targeted live-streaming video chat applications such as Live.Me, Periscope, YouNow, Kik, Musically and Snapchat to target and entice the minors.
While pretending to be minor boys and girls, the defendants streamed pre-recorded videos of other underage minors engaging in similar conduct to the targeted victims, in an effort to get the minors to believe they were watching a live video of someone their own age. The victims were unaware that they were communicating with adult men who were recording their sexually explicit activity.
After successfully recording a victim, the defendants shared the sexually explicit videos with each other by uploading the files to file-storage sites and placing a link to download the file on a section of their members-only chatroom. Until date, 172 minor victims have been positively identified.
Four of the co-conspirators each pleaded guilty to one count of engaging in a child exploitation enterprise and one count of advertising child pornography. Three of the co-conspirators pleaded guilty to one count of advertising child pornography. Two of the co-conspirators pleaded guilty to one count of engaging in a child exploitation enterprise. Additionally, one defendant, who was prosecuted in the Western District of Washington pleaded guilty to one count of engaging in a child exploitation enterprise, one count of producing child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography. The case is part of Project Safe Childhood. Launched in May 2006 by the DoJ, Project Safe Childhood is a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children online, as well as to identify and rescue victims.
The full list of defendants and co-conspirators can be found in the DoJ’s statement.