Subscribe for 17¢ / day
Michael Cotter

U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana Michael Cotter speaks during a news conference Thursday to announce the results of an international child pornography investigation.

Back in 2009, a Polson man named Paul Wencewicz created an invitation-only online bulletin board where members advertised and traded sexually explicit images of young girls.

He called it Kingdom of Future Dreams, and housed the physical server on the remote Isle of Jersey, one of the United Kingdom's Channel Islands.

On it were thousands of pictures of girls as young as 4 years old posing with sex toys – one with the word "slut" and "hurt me" written in red on a girl's abdomen with a knife in the picture.

After a tip in 2011, FBI agents and officers from the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force obtained a search warrant for Wencewicz's house, and through their investigation identified dozens of other suspects and the existence of a second bulletin board called the Dark Moon.

Agents were able to crack Wencewicz's highly complex encryption in 2013.

On Thursday, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Montana announced the conclusion of a multi-agency, multi-year international investigation of the two bulletin boards involving the exploitation of hundreds of children. The stings that brought down the child porn rings were called Operation Kingdom Conqueror and Operation Moon Runner.

The investigation resulted in the conviction of 21 defendants – all men ranging in age from 25 to 67 – across the United States. 

The last of the defendants, 31-year-old Shawnston Beaudoin of Kennesaw, Georgia, was sentenced Thursday to 17 years and six months in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, with lifetime supervised release.

Wencewicz, 49, received a sentence of 18 years and four months in the Bureau of Prisons, with lifetime supervised release. He must also pay $29,859 in restitution.

The sentences of the other defendants ranged from 15 years to 18 years and four months, and all include supervised release.

***

U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana Michael Cotter said the investigation involved more than 100 local, state and federal agents operating on two continents, and the execution of 60 search warrants.

"Between 2009 and 2012, Wencewicz and other members of the conspiracy sexually exploited hundreds of little girls around the world and the U.S. by trading appalling and revolting images and videos of them while expressing perverse sexual glee while looking at them," Cotter said. "Agents were able to identify the locations of some of the most egregious members and the task force agents executed search warrants on these targets."

Cotter said the Dark Moon bulletin board had data anonymization and encryption to conceal the members' locations, and administrators configured it to purge the IP addresses of members.

"These men are dangerous," Cotter said. "Some had images of girls even younger than 4. Their sexual perversions are horrific."

One defendant, 49-year-old Tony Gustafson of Hastings, Nebraska, had sadistic images in his collection that included the image of the girl with the words written on her abdomen. He was sentenced 16 years and eight months in prison. Many of the images showed children being abused with foreign objects, Cotter said.

"Some of the posts and comments the members would make on the board were equally as depraved," he said. "Some of the defendants had also committed prior hands-on offenses against children."

Steven Grovo, 35, of Shirly, Massachusetts, previously assaulted a 12-year-old girl. He also told investigators he abused a 4-year-old child.

Ian Nosek, 44, of Charlottesville, Virginia, had a history of taking pictures of the pubic area of girls in swimming pools, which he would then post.

Beaudoin admitted to producing child pornography and previously assaulting girls.

"These operations were a cooperative effort between the the U.S. Attorney's Office, the FBI, the U.S. Department of Justice's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, the Montana Department of Criminal Investigation, the Helena Police Department, Homeland Security Investigation and the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force," Cotter said. "It's our duty to protect children with the coalition of team players we have in this room, and we will continue to do so. This was a remarkable piece of work to bring the men to justice who have exploited these young children."

He specifically pointed out Jimmy Weg, a Helena-based computer forensics expert, for his crucial help with the case.

Maureen Cain of the U.S. Department of Justice said investigators are still working to determine their identities of the victims, which at this time are unknown. The people who made the pictures also have not been identified.

And, she said, there is still an investigation into who created the Dark Moon bulletin board.

"Today's sentencing closes a chapter in the continuing fight to bring justice to those who prey upon our children," said Eric Barnhart, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Salt Lake City Field Office. "The 21 men convicted for their roles in the Kingdom of Future Dreams and the Dark Moon bulletin boards traded on the misery of children. Children that were subjected to horrific sexual and emotional abuse. Each time these men distributed those photos or videos, those victims were re-victimized.

"Those of us who have looked into the eyes of these victims can see the light that shines so brightly in so many kids shines less brightly in theirs. Some things are stolen from these children, and men like these 21 are the ones that do it. But it's a testament to how much we value our children that when the worst happens to them, it brings out the best in law enforcement. It was a fantastic effort, both domestic and abroad. All previous rivalries and jurisdictions and past grievances were swept aside. It is a fantastic outcome. The battle will continue. I'd like to say that the war is won, but unfortunately there is more out there."

***

In addition to Beaudoin and Wencewicz, the men who were convicted of conspiracy to advertise child pornography are:

• Scott Long, 55, of Portland, Oregon, was sentenced to 16 years and eight months in prison and lifetime supervised release and was ordered to pay $29,859 in restitution.

• Steve Humiston, 58, of Tacoma, Washington, was sentenced to 17 years and six months in prison and lifetime supervised release and was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and $29,859 in restitution.

• Phillip Morris, 43, of Jeffersonville, Indiana, was sentenced to 18 years in prison and lifetime supervised release and was ordered to pay $29,859 in restitution.

• Tony Bronson, 55, of Gary, Indiana, was sentenced to 18 years and eight months in prison and 10 years supervised release and was ordered to pay $29,859 in restitution.

• Jeffrey Woolley, 55, of Nicholasville, Kentucky, was sentenced to 15 years in prison and lifetime supervised release and was ordered to pay $29,859 in restitution.

• Charles Crosby, 45, of Trenton, New Jersey, was sentenced to 17 years and six months in prison and lifetime supervised release and was ordered to pay $29,859 in restitution.

• John Johnson, 59, of Locust Grove, Virginia, was sentenced to 15 years in prison and lifetime supervised release and was ordered to pay $29,859 in restitution.

• Joseph Purificato, 25, of Mount Vernon, Missouri, was sentenced to 15 years in prison and 10 years supervised release and was ordered to pay $29,859 in restitution.

• Nosek was sentenced to 18 years in prison and lifetime supervised release and was ordered to pay $29,859 in restitution.

• Robert Krise, 67, of Gaithersburg, Maryland, was sentenced to 15 years in prison and lifetime supervised release and was ordered to pay $29,859 in restitution.

• John Merchberger III, 48, of Dayton, Maine, was sentenced to 18 years and four months in prison and lifetime supervised release and was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine.

• Daniel Brown, 27, of Taylors, South Carolina, was sentenced to 15 years in prison and lifetime supervised release.

• Marc Edoria, 24, of Sacramento, California, was sentenced to 15 years in prison and 10 years supervised release.

• Gustafson, 49, of Hastings, Nebraska, was sentenced to 16 years and eight months in prison and lifetime supervised release.

• Ryan Hatfield, 26, of Mount Washington, Kentucky, was sentenced to 15 years in prison and 10 years supervised release.

• David Woods, 37, of Corfu, New York, was sentenced to 15 years in prison and 15 years supervised release.

The following defendants were convicted at trial of participating in a child exploitation enterprise and conspiracy to advertise child pornography:

• Joshua Petersen, 45, of Prescott, Arizona, was sentenced to 18 years and four months in prison and lifetime supervised release and was ordered to pay $29,859 restitution.

• Grovo was sentenced to 18 years and four months in prison and lifetime supervised release and was ordered to pay $29,859 in restitution.

• Richard Pitts, 28, of Cathedral City, California, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute child pornography and was sentenced to seven years in prison and 15 years of supervised release. 

0
0
0
0
0
You must be logged in to react.
Click any reaction to login.