Orlando Man Sentenced to 27 Years for Distributing Child Pornography
Orlando, Florida - U.S. Attorney Robert E. O'Neill announces that U.S. District Judge Anne C. Conway today sentenced Robert J. Harnois (44, Orlando) to 27 years and 3 months in federal prison for distributing and possessing child pornography. The court also ordered Harnois to forfeit the computers he used to distribute and store the child pornography. As part of his sentence, the court also ordered him to served a life term of supervised release after he completes his prison sentence.
Harnois pled guilty on August 11, 2011.
According to court documents, on February 15, 2009, Harnois, using a screen name, chatted with numerous users on a website known to be used to trade child pornography and chat. At that time, agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) were monitoring the website. The agents had obtained administrator access to the website, thus enabling them to obtain IP addresses of users of the site and to record the chat sessions and distributions of child pornography. During the chat session on February 15, 2009, Harnois chatted about his sexual interest in young girls. Two days later, on February 17, 2009, Harnois, again using the same screen name, posted 6 images of child pornography on the website. A few days later, on February 20, 2009, Harnois, chatted on the website with an FBI undercover task force agent (UC) about having sex with little girls and trading child pornography. During that chat, the UC gave Harnois his Yahoo! Instant Messenger Account user name, and shortly thereafter, Harnois added the UC to his Yahoo! buddy list and contacted him over the Internet on Yahoo!.
Later, on February 20, 2009, Harnois distributed 52 images of child pornography to the UC through his Yahoo IM account and chatted extensively with the UC. On February 25, 2009, Harnois again chatted with the FBI UC on Yahoo! and distributed 25 images and 2 videos of child pornography to the agent from his hotel room in Tallahassee, Florida. All of the images and videos that Harnois distributed depicted the sexual abuse of prepubescent girls, toddlers and infants.
On August 26, 2009, ICE-HSI agents executed a search warrant at Harnois’s house in Orlando, Florida. Agents seized an IBM Thinkpad 380D laptop computer from the master bedroom closet and several floppy disks. Forensic examiners determined that the computer was registered to Harnois, and found about 85 images and 10 videos of child pornography. ICE agents also examined Harnois’s work computer and found that he had used his work computer to transfer child pornography files.
On April 7, 2011, agents arrested Harnois and seized two computers from his work vehicle; one belonging to his employer and one belonging to his minor son. Forensic analysis determined that Harnois had used both computers to visit child pornography websites and that he used his work computer to download images of child pornography and child erotica.
The case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov. For more information about internet safety education, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov and click on the tab "other resources."
This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Karen L. Gable.