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Child Porn Charges: Busted By FBI Computer Surveillance and Now, Private Web Hackers on Social Media

Federal authorities in North Texas and the Dallas – Fort Worth metro area are working very hard it seems at investigating and charging people with child pornography sex crime charges.

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Recent Computer-Related Federal Child Porn Charges

Consider the following five examples of news releases from the local FBI (Dallas) office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas involving computer child porn cases in just the past 60 days:

1. January 2015: Gregory James Flohr sentenced to 327 months in federal prison, following his guilty plea to one count of transportation of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography.

2. December 2014: Michael Wayne Brown arrested and in custody, facing maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine and a lifetime of supervised release. According to the feds, he had several “telephones and electronic devices, and he stored [prepubescent child] pornographic images on some of them.”

3. December 2014: Frank Olivarez, Jr., pleaded guilty to one count of transporting and shipping child pornography; faces a statutory penalty of not less than five or more than 20 years in federal prison, up to a $250,000 fine and a lifetime of supervised release. Arrest came as result of FBI investigation via a BitTorrent file-sharing network, with FBI reporting that the task force “downloaded 695 image and video files from Olivarez, 648 of which were child pornography.”

4. November 2014: James Marshall Thomas pleaded guilty to one count of transportation of child pornography, faces a statutory maximum sentence of not less than five years and up to 20 years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine and a lifetime of supervised release. According to the feds, a Cybertip to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children led to federal search for Thomas and discovery of child pornography on his laptop and thumb drive as well as forensic discoveries of Skype chat logs including file transmissions and access or download of “approximately 400 images and 28 videos of child pornography, including sadistic acts involving minors, were located on his computer and thumb drive.”

5. November 2014: Jonathan Ramirez pleaded guilty to one count of receipt of child pornography andfaces a statutory penalty of not less than five years nor more than 20 years in federal prison, up to a $250,000 fine and up to a lifetime of supervised release. The feds report that their task force officer, working online, tracked down Ramirez through an IP address and found Ramirez had made 78 files of child pornography available for sharing. In his plea deal, “Ramirez admitting using ARES P2P file sharing network to view and download images and videos of child pornography that he would then move to an external hard drive. He admitted that he had more than 175 videos and 50 images of child pornography on his computer and external hard drive.”

 

Targeting Child Pornography Through Computers

In the above cases, law enforcement was focused upon grabbing up the computers and thumb drives of defendants in order to establish admissible evidence of child pornography possession and/or distribution to make their federal felony case based upon federal child pornography sex crime laws. However, these cases don’t start with hardware. In many federal investigations, the beginnings of child porno cases starts with a federal agent or local law enforcement officer accessing the internet and searching for people who are violating child pornography laws.

In other words, in order to get to the point that the feds are able to seize someone’s hard drive or laptop or thumb drive, they’ve already been building their case remotely using their internet access to investigate child porn charges. Law enforcement is surfing online, looking for child porn crime targets.

For more information here, see our prior posts:

 

The Dark Web and Child Pornography Arrests

A new study has been published which claims that most websites that are being promoted as being privacy-protected and designed to protect users from unwanted surveillance from the government or other intrusions are being used by lawbreakers to host child pornography web sites.

According to the University of Portsmouth study, almost ALL of the Tor hidden services sites that were site visited by researchers were filled with child porn. It was 500% more than other “dark web” stuff like gambling or bitcoin or whistle-blowing.

However, as Tor experts explain, while the numbers in this study suggest that most of the stuff on Tor is child porn, that may not be accurate at all. And there is a lot of work being done to enable private, protected anonymous web services to cull child porn (and other stigmatized content like illegal weapons sales) in order to have private and secure web access for those individuals who are concerned about government and private snooping into their web activities.

 

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Anonymous and Operation Death Eaters

Now, the Anonymous group has announced its new campaign, “Operation Death Eaters,” which will be going after child pornography rings on a global basis. It’s goal: to eradicate online child porn and the sexual abuse of children by pedophiles.

As a group of hackers working across the world in a joint effort, these are private citizens who are going to be online and going after child porn targets. They are encouraging the exposure of child porn distribution networks on social media using the hashtag “#opdeatheaters”.

Part of Operation Death Eaters is also described as the creation of an online database which will collect and publish information regarding child porn cases from countries all over the world. The database will be divided into areas for the media, law enforcement, schools, and more.

Defending Against Child Porn Arrests

Eradicating the sexual abuse of children is a worthy goal, of course. However, from a criminal defense perspective the growing use of online surveillance techniques by law enforcement, where police secretly monitor people and pretend to be someone they’re not in order to get an arrest, is a big concern because it’s ripe for abuse by overzealous agents and officers.

Added to this now, are the private efforts to locate and point the finger at individuals as perpetrators of sex crimes against minors.

  • What if they are wrong?
  • What if this hashtag is misused by someone with a grudge against another person, like someone who just wants to make trouble for their ex?

Even suggesting that a man or woman has been considered by police as a possible child porn arrest target can harm them for life. It’s a very serious stigma and one that isn’t easily removed once the gossip begins. For many, the arrest on a child pornography charge is life-altering and impacts jobs, relationships, education, and more.

They may be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, but not in the court of public opinion.

Which is why Texas criminal defense lawyers are not only expecting a continued increase in child porn arrests, but are working hard to deal with the situations where accusations or investigations are resulting in real harm and injustice to those who are falsely accused.

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For more information, check out our resources page on Sex Crimes as well as Michael Lowe’s Case Results.  


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