LAWFUEL – 52 Defendants Charged in Eight-Month Investigation
Federal and local authorities this morning arrested seven men on federal
charges of possessing child pornography as part of an investigation that has led to charges against a total of 52 defendants who allegedly used peer-to-peer networks to exchange graphic images and videos.
The charges are the result of a coordinated investigation led by U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Federal Bureau of
Investigation, which received extensive assistance from a number of other
agencies, including the United States Secret Service. The investigation is the first time law enforcement has conducted a coordinated sweep broadly targeting peer-to-peer users who share child pornography.
All of the defendants are charged with possession of child pornography, and some of the defendants are charged with additional offenses, such as production of child pornography and committing crimes while registered sex offenders. Those charged include a law enforcement officer, attorneys and men with previous convictions related to the child pornography.
One particularly serious case involves a man named Gary Samuel Cochran,
a 50-year-old Huntington Beach man who has previously been convicted in state court of child molestation and possession of obscene materials that depicted minors engaged in sex acts. Earlier this year, investigators found evidence that Cochran was not only sharing child pornography, but that some of the images were pictures he took of a young girl. As a result, he is charged with both possession and production of child pornography. Because of his prior convictions,
Cochran faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison if convicted of possessing child pornography, and a mandatory minimum sentence of 35 years in prison if convicted of producing child pornography.
If convicted of committing these offenses while a registered sex offender, Cochran would receive an additional 10 years in prison.
Other defendants charged in this investigation with possession of child
Eric David Lacey, a 48-year-old man who was living above a child daycare facility in Hollywood while being sought in a child pornography case out of North Dakota that was featured on America’s Most Wanted;
Evan Craig Stephens, 36, an Upland man who is a registered sex offender
after being previously convicted of child molestation; and
George Tyler Farmer, 39, of Oxnard, who was previously convicted of
molesting a 6-year-old girl.
A complete list of the defendants charged is attached to this press release.
These cases are the result of a coordinated investigation in which law
enforcement used sophisticated computer programs to track down computers on which child pornography was being stored and made available to others via peer-to-peer networks, which is an increasingly popular method to share files on the Internet. Using software programs such as Limewire, computer users can join networks that allow the sharing of files across the Internet, often for no charge.
Law enforcement is able to use these same networks to identify and target
individuals using the networks to share child pornography.
“As criminals exploit technology to commit their crimes – whether it be
identity theft, money laundering, distribution of child pornography, or any other criminal conduct – law enforcement will quickly react to develop equally sophisticated means to track down their wrongdoing,” said United States Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien.
Salvador Hernandez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI in Los
Angeles, said: “There is perhaps nothing more reprehensible than an act in exploitation of children – those members of our society who, because of their age and inexperience, are especially vulnerable to manipulation and deceit. America’s children are its most cherished and valuable resource. The FBI will continue to do all that it can to protect them from those that would rob them of their innocence.”
Robert Schoch, Special Agent in Charge for the ICE office of
investigations in Los Angeles, stated: “Today, those involved in child exploitation – like everyone else – are using the remarkable reach of the Internet, and peer-to-peer technology is the latest frontier. But we have a message for child sex predators who think they can escape justice by hiding in Cyberspace. We will do everything in our power and use every tool at our disposal to keep our children safe – whether they are around the block or around the world.”
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. All persons charged in an indictment are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The charge of possession of child pornography carries a statutory maximum
sentence of 10 years in federal prison, unless that person has previously been convicted of a child exploitation crime, in which case any conviction carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.
The cases announced today were investigated by the FBI’s Sexual Assault
Felony Enforcement (SAFE) Team and U.S. Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (ICE). In additional to the FBI, the SAFE Team is made up of
investigators with the California Department of Justice, the United States Postal Inspection Service, ICE, the California Highway Patrol, the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office. ICE received substantial assistance from the United States Secret Service, the Los Angeles Police Department, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department, the Thousand Oaks Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services’ Multi-Agency Response
Team (MART) and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
CONTACT: refer to list of cases to determine who filed or investigated
Assistant United States Attorney Joey Blanch
Violent and Organized Crime Section
Assistant United States Attorney Rupa Goswami
Assistant United States Attorney Sally Meloch
Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section
Assistant United States Attorney Wesley L. Hsu
Chief, Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section
Ice Spokeswoman Virginia Kice
FBI Spokeswoman Laura Eimiller
Release No. 08-115