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Press Release

California Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Creating Child Sexual Abuse Material of A Number of Young Children and Engaging in a Child Exploitation Enterprise

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

A California man was sentenced today to life in prison for engaging in a child exploitation enterprise, creating child sexual abuse material (CSAM) of 20 victims whose ages ranged from infancy to nine-years old, obtaining custody of a minor for purposes of producing CSAM, and possessing CSAM.

Arlan Wesley Harrell, 27, of Hawthorne, pleaded guilty on July 7, 2021, to engaging in a child exploitation enterprise, obtaining custody of a minor for purposes of producing child pornography, production of child pornography, and possession of child pornography.

According to court documents, from 2016 and 2017, Harrell distributed and advertised CSAM depicting three children on an online bulletin board dedicated to the sexual exploitation of children under the age of five. Harrell, along with co-defendants John Brinson Jr., and Moises Martinez, was an active member of this website, which was hosted on Tor, a computer network on the dark web that is specifically designed to facilitate anonymous communication over the internet.  Harrell also secured the custody of a minor and traveled with him to Brinson’s house to create CSAM of that minor and two other children together. In total, Harrell created CSAM depicting himself engaging in sexual acts with or otherwise sexually exploiting 20 children, including nine children four years of age or younger.

Co-defendant Martinez pleaded guilty to engaging in a child exploitation enterprise and production of child pornography on Sept. 13, 2019, and was sentenced on Sept. 17, 2021 to 55 years in prison followed by lifetime supervised release.  Co-defendant Brinson Jr., pleaded guilty to engaging in a child exploitation enterprise and production of child pornography on July 23, 2021, and is scheduled to be sentenced on April 22. A fourth co-defendant, Keith Lawniczak, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a child on Dec. 19, 2019, and was sentenced on Aug. 13, 2020 to 12 years in prison followed by lifetime supervised release.

Homeland Security Investigations’ Los Angeles office, along with HSI’s Fresno and Boston offices, investigated the case. The High Technology Investigative Unit of the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) provided significant assistance.

Trial Attorneys Lauren S. Kupersmith and Kyle P. Reynolds of CEOS and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Devon Myers and Kim Meyer of the Central District of California are prosecuting the case. 

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 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.justice.gov/psc.

Updated February 18, 2022

Topic
Project Safe Childhood
Press Release Number: 22-152