Cumberland Man Indicted for Operating a Child Pornography Online Bulletin Board
Second Federal Case in Maryland Charging Crime of Advertising Child Pornography;
Case Resulted from a Two Year International Investigation Called Operation Nest Egg
Greenbelt, Maryland - A federal grand jury in Greenbelt indicted George Sell, a/k/a Buttface, age 69, of Cumberland, Maryland, for advertising, transporting, receiving and possessing child pornography in connection with his operation of an online bulletin board in which members circulated images of child pornography and links to other child pornography websites. The indictment was returned on August 30, 2010 and unsealed today at Sell’s detention hearing. U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles B. Day ordered that Sell remain detained.
The indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice; Acting Postal Inspector in Charge Keith A. Fixel of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service - Washington Division; and Special Agent in Charge William Winter of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Office of Homeland Security Investigations. Mr. Rosenstein thanked the Allegany County Combined Criminal Investigations Unit (C3I) for their assistance in this investigation and prosecution.
The 10 count indictment alleges that Country Lounge is a secured web-based bulletin board that advertised and offered for dissemination pictures and links to websites documenting the sexual abuse of minors. A member could join this group only upon invitation and after approval by the group’s administrators. As of August 2008, 142 members belonged to Country Lounge. Country Lounge was located on servers in Virginia and Texas. To obtain access to Country Lounge, a member had to have a log-in username and password. Members were allegedly instructed by a specific set of rules and guidelines on how to post images via Country Lounge in order to avoid detection from law enforcement.
The indictment alleges that Sell managed the day to day operations of Country Lounge. From December 2006 to August 2008, Sell is alleged to have conspired with others to publish notices and advertisements on Country Lounge, seeking and offering to trade and distribute links to websites depicting the sexual abuse of minors. Sell allegedly arranged for and obtained different web host companies to host County Lounge on computer servers maintained by members of the conspiracy; and decided and assigned a hierarchy of administrators and membership levels to Country Lounge members. Each level of membership contained different duties and responsibilities.
The indictment seeks forfeiture of Sell’s home and any other property used to commit the offenses.
Sell faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison for conspiracy to advertise child pornography; 20 years in prison for conspiracy to transport child pornography; 20 years in prison on each of seven counts for receipt of child pornography; and 10 years in prison on each of two counts for possession of child pornography.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
This case resulted from a two year international investigation called Operation Nest Egg, as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by 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 better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov. Details about Maryland’s program are available at www.justice.gov/usao/md/Safe-Childhood/index.html.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Stacy Belf and U.S. Department of Justice Trial Attorneys Darcy Katzin and Jennifer Toritto Leonardo from the Criminal Division Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, who are prosecuting the case