Justice News

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, January 23, 2023

Bulgarian National Convicted for Child Pornography Trafficking Conspiracy

A federal jury convicted a Bulgarian national today for conspiracy to advertise and distribute images and videos depicting the sexual exploitation of young children.

According to evidence presented at trial, Plamen Georgiev Velinov, 49, of Sofia, helped manage and administer the Newstar Enterprise, an internet-based business that profited from the sexual exploitation of vulnerable children under the guise of “child modeling,” through a collection of websites called the Newstar Websites. Beginning in around 2006 and continuing until 2019, Velinov assisted the enterprise by selecting children to be featured on the Newstar Websites, editing images and videos on those websites, communicating with customers, setting prices for videos, activating new websites, and creating advertising banners. While chatting with a co-conspirator, Velinov described one child as “nuclear sexy,” underscoring his knowledge of the purpose of the websites. Financial records show that U.S.-based co-conspirators transferred more than $400,000 to Velinov’s Bulgarian bank account in connection with the conspiracy. 

According to court documents in this case and related cases, the Newstar Enterprise, which was founded around 2005, built, maintained, hosted, and operated the Newstar Websites on servers in the United States and abroad. To populate the Newstar Websites with content, Newstar Enterprise members sourced, enticed, solicited, and recruited males and females under the age of 18, many of whom were prepubescent, to use as “child models” for the Newstar Websites. The Newstar Enterprise used the child victims to produce more than 4.6 million sexualized images and videos – including images and videos depicting children as young as six-years-old in sexual and provocative poses, wearing thong underwear, transparent underwear, revealing swimsuits, pantyhose, miniskirts, and costumes – that were distributed and sold through the Newstar Websites. Most of the child victims were recruited from Ukraine, Moldova, and other nations in Eastern Europe and were particularly vulnerable due to their age and socio-economic status.

Newstar subscribers and customers of the Newstar Websites were from more than 100 different countries. Images were freely available to the public to preview, but Newstar offered a paid subscription for greater access and more content. The sale of Newstar content generated more than $9.4 million during the conspiracy. To process, receive, and distribute this money, Newstar Enterprise leaders fraudulently opened merchant and bank accounts in the United States and laundered proceeds using a bogus jewelry company. 

Velinov was convicted of one count of conspiracy to advertise visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct and one count of conspiracy to distribute such images.  He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 18 and faces a maximum penalty of 50 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

To date, six members of the Newstar Enterprise have been charged in connection with the Newstar Websites. The chart below shows the status of each case. 

Name

Charge(s)

Status

Tatiana Power

Conspiracy to commit money laundering

Pleaded guilty and sentenced to 12.5 years in prison

 

Kenneth Power

Conspiracy to advertise child pornography; conspiracy to distribute child pornography

 

Defendant deceased; case dismissed

Plamen Georgiev Velinov

Conspiracy to advertise child pornography; conspiracy to distribute child pornography

 

Convicted after trial

Patrice Wilowski-Mevorah

 

Conspiracy to commit money laundering

Pleaded guilty and sentenced to 63 months in prison

Anthony Lee Kendall

Conspiracy to commit money laundering; promotion money laundering; concealment money laundering

 

Defendant deceased; case dismissed

Mary Lou Bjorkman

Conspiracy to commit money laundering

Pleaded guilty and sentenced to 18 months in prison

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Roger B. Handberg for the Middle District of Florida, and Special Agent in Charge John Condon of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Tampa made the announcement.

HSI Tampa and the High Technology Investigative Unit of the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) investigated these cases with substantial assistance from the HSI offices in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Athens, Greece, as well as U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Sofia, Bulgaria. This investigation also benefited from substantial assistance and cooperation from foreign law enforcement, including from the Republic of Bulgaria, Supreme Cassation Prosecution Office; the National Investigative Service of Bulgaria; and the Dutch National Police, International Legal Assistance Center, North-Holland Unit. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs assisted with securing foreign evidence, including through mutual legal assistance requests to Bulgaria and the Netherlands, and with Velinov’s extradition. The Justice Department’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training (OPDAT) provided capacity building assistance and mentoring.

Trial Attorney Kyle P. Reynolds of the Justice Department’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Karyna Valdes of the Middle District for Florida are prosecuting these cases.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, 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.justice.gov/psc.

Updated January 23, 2023