Previously Convicted Sex Offender Pleads Guilty to Advertising Child Pornography
Baltimore, Maryland - Matthew Sluss, age 34, of Rawlings, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to advertising child pornography through an internet file sharing program.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
According to the plea agreement, Sluss had previously been convicted of two offenses relating to the sexual exploitation of a child and was required to register as a sex offender. Sluss was a widespread internet user of a publicly available peer-to-peer file sharing network and was involved in the advertising and distribution of child pornography. According to his plea, in 2009, the FBI Philadelphia Division began an undercover investigation into a user of a file sharing program, later identified as Sluss, who was sharing more than 115,000 files. The FBI browsed through the content of the shared files and observed child pornography images and hundreds of videos with titles indicative of child pornography. During November and December 2009, the FBI downloaded 108 images and 1 video that contained visual depictions of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct. At that time, Sluss was residing in Denver, Colorado, and a search warrant was executed at his home. Law enforcement seized multiple computers and hard drives from the residence. Sluss advised the agents that he was previously employed as a network administrator; that he hosts his own mail server and website; and that some or all of the data on his computers and hard drives was encrypted to protect the “documents,” and prevent anyone without the appropriate password from viewing the files. A forensic review of the computers and hard drives revealed that much of the data was encrypted.
By February 2010, Sluss had moved to his parents’ home in Rawlings, Maryland, and on February 8, 2010, registered as a sex offender with Maryland’s Sex Offender Registry, as required due to his previous convictions.
In the Spring and Summer of 2010, five separate law enforcement officers working in an undercover capacity determined that Sluss was downloading and sharing large amounts of child pornography over a publicly available file sharing program. The FBI’s Miami, Buffalo, Sacramento and Baltimore Divisions, as well as the Toronto, Canada Police Service, all downloaded child pornography being shared by Sluss over the internet. Video surveillance was conducted at Sluss’s residence in August and September 2010, during which Sluss was observed sitting at his computer in his bedroom, using the file sharing program and downloading images and videos of child pornography.
On September 15, 2010, the FBI executed a warrant at the Sluss home. Just prior to the execution of the warrant, Sluss was observed sitting at his computer in his bedroom using the file sharing program. As agents entered the residence, Sluss attempted to block the agents’ entrance at the kitchen door. As the agents began to enter, Sluss ran towards his bedroom, where he was stopped by an agent who entered the residence through Sluss’ bedroom
When law enforcement agents viewed Sluss’s computer, the computer was logged onto the file sharing program and investigators were able to view the recent chat history between Sluss and his “friends” on the file sharing program, as well as to access much of the data on Sluss’s various computers. One of the computers wired to Sluss’ bedroom was located in the rear of the crawl space under the first floor of the residence. Investigators were able to view and copy most of the data contained on this computer, which revealed over 25,000 files containing images and video of child pornography. One of the computers in Sluss’s bedroom contained encrypted volumes.
According to the plea agreement, the file sharing program used by Sluss contains a “chat” feature that allows the user to communicate with others who use the program either through “private” or “public” chats. A review of Sluss’ computer revealed numerous “private” and “public” chats from Sluss using the file sharing program, in which he encourages the production, transportation, and distribution of child pornography. Specifically, Sluss encouraged his “friends” to make videos of boys engaged in sexually explicit activity by webcam, and share those videos with Sluss.
For example, in early September 2010, Sluss posted the following messages: “I don’t want teens... But I' not giving out the private shares unless I get similar back.. preteen...” and “And again, im looking for stuff that is very recent. im spending HOURS each day... getting boys to go private for me i want the same.” In several messages to “friends” Sluss described videos of specific boys that he was willing to share. Law enforcement located folders on Sluss’ computer titled in the names of the boys Sluss described in the chats, which contained images of boys engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
Because Sluss has two or more prior convictions relating to the sexual exploitation of children, he faces a minimum of 35 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison, followed by up to lifetime of supervised release. U.S. District Judge Ellen B. Hollander has scheduled sentencing for August 28, 2011 at 2:00 p.m.
This case was brought 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 commended the FBI for its work in the investigation and the Toronto Police Service, Allegany County Sheriff’s Office and the Allegany County Police Bureau for their assistance. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul E. Budlow, who is prosecuting the case.