Two Members of International Child Exploitation Conspiracy Sentenced
Two members of an international child exploitation conspiracy were sentenced today for their participation in two websites that were operated for the purpose of coercing and enticing minors as young as eight years old to engage in sexually explicit conduct on web camera.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente of the Eastern District of Virginia and Section Chief Calvin Shivers of the FBI’s Violent Crimes Against Children Section (VCACS) made the announcement.
Stephen R. Funk, 35, of Milwaukee, and James E. Hancock, 45, of Boston, Georgia, were sentenced to 252 and 90 months in prison, respectively, by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III of the Eastern District of Virginia. Both Funk and Hancock will be required to register as sex offenders. In December 2015, Funk and Hancock each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute and receive child pornography. The investigation, Operation Subterfuge, identified more than 300 minor victims in the United States and an estimated 1,600 minor victims were lured to the websites.
In connection with their guilty pleas, the defendants admitted that they and other members of the conspiracy created false profiles on social networking sites, such as YouTube, posing as young teenagers to lure children to the websites they controlled. Once on the conspirators’ websites, the conspirators showed the children pre-recorded videos of prior minor victims, often engaging in sexually explicit conduct, to make the new victims think that they were chatting with another minor. Using these videos, the conspirators coerced and enticed children to engage in sexually explicit activity on their own web cameras, which the website automatically recorded. Conspirators earned points based on their contribution to the success of website objectives, which allowed them access to the sexually exploitative videos of children. Law enforcement agencies have disabled both websites.
Trial Attorney Lauren Britsch of the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) and Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy Doherty-McCormick of the Eastern District of Virginia prosecuted the case. CEOS Trial Attorney Ravi Sinha assisted with the prosecution.
VCACS special agents led the investigation with the assistance of the FBI’s Operation Rescue Me and the FBI’s Digital Analysis and Research Center. The South Africa Police Service, Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offenses, Gauteng; Dutch Police Service Agency, KLPD; Royal Canadian Mounted Police, National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre; and the Australian Federal Police, Child Protection Operations, Sydney were active partners in the investigation. The U.S. Attorneys’ Offices of the Eastern District of Wisconsin and the Middle District of Georgia contributed to the investigation and the prosecution.
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 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.