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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, January 25, 2018

Two Men Convicted of Engaging in Child Exploitation Conspiracy

A Lemon Grove, California resident, and a Harrodsburg, Kentucky resident were convicted today of multiple child exploitation crimes, including conspiracy offenses, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania after a seven-day jury trial, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney David J. Freed of the Middle District of Pennsylvania and Deputy Executive Associate Director Derek Benner of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). 

 

William Staples, 57, a resident of Harrodsburg, Kentucky, was found guilty of conspiracy to advertise child pornography; conspiracy to receive/distribute child pornography and aiding and abetting the receipt/distribution of child pornography.

 

Dylan Heatherly, 34, a student in Lemon Grove, California, was found guilty of conspiracy to receive/distribute child pornography and aiding and abetting the receipt/distribution of child pornography.

 

A sentencing date has not yet been scheduled.

 

“Today’s verdicts mark the latest chapter in the Department’s unwavering commitment to targeting dangerous child sex offenders,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan.  “The prosecution of the 15 individuals in this case, many of whom were responsible for the reprehensible sexual abuse of a six-year-old child on a live-streaming, video-conferencing platform, resulted in 15 fewer child predators on our streets.  We will continue to work closely with our domestic and foreign law enforcement partners to identify and punish child sex offenders who seek to use technological means to commit their heinous crimes.”

 

 “The production and distribution of child sexual abuse material is a horrific crime that can negatively affect victims for their entire lives,” said HSI Deputy Executive Associate Director Benner. “ICE agents are committed to aggressively investigating these crimes to ensure that child predators can’t maintain anonymity behind emerging online platforms and complicated criminal schemes.”  

 

According to trial evidence, between April 11, 2014 and May 11, 2016, Staples, Heatherly, and 12 co-conspirators located in different states worked together and with others to create a secure space on a video conferencing website where like-minded individuals could regularly live-stream videos of child pornography of prepubescent children, some as young as infants, to each other in an effort to minimize any evidence of such child pornography being located on their individual devices. In addition to streaming pre-recorded videos of child pornography, on July 22, 2015, an undercover Toronto Police Detective Constable observed a six-year-old child being sexually abused live via video conference for everyone in the secure space to see. Many individuals commented on and encouraged the sexual abuse of the child in real time. The following day, on July 23, 2015, law enforcement rescued the child and arrested co-conspirator William Augusta who had been sexually abusing the child.

 

In May 2016, 15 individuals were charged in an 18-count superseding indictment by a grand jury in the Middle District of Pennsylvania with multiple child exploitation offenses, many of which related to 14 co-conspirators’ involvement in using the video conferencing website to produce, advertise, distribute, and/or receive child pornography. Twelve of the defendants pleaded guilty prior to trial:

 

  • William Augusta, 21, a resident of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty on Oct. 28, 2016, to each of the 13 counts with which he was charged, including multiple counts of production of child pornography involving two different children.  On Oct. 31, 2017, Judge Kane sentenced Augusta to serve 60 years in prison to be followed by a lifetime of supervised release.
  • Scott Lane, 34, former Executive Director of Donor Relations and Fundraising Programs for Pace University, of Manhattan, pleaded guilty on Jan. 11, five days before trial was set to begin, to each of the six counts with which he was charged, including conspiracy to produce child pornography; aiding and abetting the production of child pornography; conspiracy to advertise child pornography; advertising child pornography; conspiracy to receive/distribute child pornography and aiding and abetting the receipt/distribution of child pornography. A sentencing date has not yet been scheduled.
  • Matthew Fensler, 25, a resident of Phoenix, Arizona, pleaded guilty on Jan. 4, 2017, to conspiracy to produce child pornography and conspiracy to advertise child pornography.  On July 27, 2017, Judge Kane sentenced Fensler to serve 35 years in prison to be followed by 15 years of supervised release.
  • David Sewell, 31, a resident of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, pleaded guilty on Dec. 12, 2016, to conspiracy to produce child pornography and conspiracy to advertise child pornography.  On July 27, 2017, Judge Kane sentenced Sewell to serve 35 years in prison to be followed by 15 years of supervised release.
  • Moises Marquez, 30, a resident of San Diego, California, pleaded guilty on Sept. 28, 2016, to conspiracy to produce child pornography and conspiracy to advertise child pornography.  On June 28, 2017, Judge Kane sentenced Marquez to serve 30 years in prison to be followed by 15 years of supervised release.
  • Jason Bolden, 47, a resident of Duluth, Georgia, pleaded guilty on Dec. 14, 2016, to conspiracy to advertise child pornography.  On July 26, 2017, Judge Kane sentenced Bolden to serve 30 years in prison to be followed by 10 years of supervised release.
  • Franklyn Molina, 35, a resident of Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty on March 24, 2017, to conspiracy to advertise child pornography and to an Information separately charging receipt of child pornography.  On Sept. 20, 2017, Judge Kane sentenced Molina to serve 195 months in prison to be followed by 15 years of supervised release.
  • Casey O’Dell, 34, a resident of Albuquerque, New Mexico, pleaded guilty on Dec. 14, 2016, to conspiracy to produce child pornography and conspiracy to advertise child pornography.  On Oct. 24, 2017, Judge Kane sentenced O’Dell to serve 40 years in prison to be followed by 15 years of supervised release.
  • James Reese, 59, a resident of Des Moines, Iowa, pleaded guilty on Oct. 28, 2016, to conspiracy to advertise child pornography.  On Nov. 7, 2017, Judge Kane sentenced Reese to serve 20 years in prison to be followed by 10 years of supervised release.
  • Paul Stamm, 56, a resident of Cincinnati, Ohio, pleaded guilty on Jan. 4, 2017, to conspiracy to produce child pornography, a charge unrelated to the video conferencing website.  On Sept. 28, 2017, Judge Kane sentenced Stamm to serve 30 years in prison to be followed by 15 years of supervised release.
  • Ed Westbury, 64, a resident of Lufkin, Texas, pleaded guilty on Dec. 8, 2016, to conspiracy to receive/distribute child pornography.  On June 14, 2017, Judge Kane sentenced Westbury to serve 78 months in prison to be followed by 10 years of supervised release.
  • Christopher Wehr, 45, a resident of Duluth, Georgia, pleaded guilty on Jan. 23, 2017, to conspiracy to advertise child pornography.  Wehr died prior to sentencing.
  • The remaining defendant, Bruce Edgecombe, 69, of  Harvard, Illinois died before his case went to trial.

 

HSI, the Toronto Police Service, the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office, and the North Middleton Police Department investigated the case with assistance from CEOS’s High Technology Investigative Unit.  Trial Attorney Austin M. Berry of the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) and Assistant U.S. Attorney Meredith Taylor of the Middle District of Pennsylvania are prosecuting the case. 

 

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 http://www.justice.gov/psc.

Press Release Number: 
18-93
Updated January 25, 2018