Federal and State Authorities Charge 11 Men with Trading Child Pornography through Use of Peer-to-Peer File-Sharing Programs
LOS ANGELES – Concluding a three-year investigation, authorities today arrested 11 defendants who are accused of using peer-to-peer file-sharing programs to receive and possess – and, in some cases, distribute – child pornography.
The arrests are the results of eight indictments filed in United States District Court and three cases filed by local prosecutors.
Today’s arrests are part of Operation “Wide Net,” an investigation conducted by the Los Angeles Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force. ICAC includes special agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the United States Postal Inspection Service, who work in conjunction with local law enforcement partners, including the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. The Long Beach Police Department and the California Highway Patrol assisted in today’s operation.
Over the past three years, Operation Wide Net has resulted in a total of more than 80 defendants being prosecuted for child pornography offenses and the execution of over 100 federal and state search warrants in the Los Angeles area.
Those arrested today include Luis Gutierrez, 49, of Chino, who was previously indicted by a federal grand jury on two counts of receiving child pornography and one count of possessing child pornography obtained through the use of the Ares file-sharing program. Gutierrez was an engineer with the Los Angeles City Fire Department in 2013 at the time of the alleged offenses, and investigators believe that he used Internet connections at three different fire stations to download the child pornography found on his computer.
Gerald Patrick Beaver, 53, of Cerritos, was also arrested today based on law enforcement operations in New Zealand and Oklahoma in which undercover officers allegedly observed him offering to distribute child pornography over the Internet using the Gigatribe file-sharing program. A federal grand jury previously indicted Beaver and charged him with one count of advertising child pornography, two counts of distributing child pornography and one count of possessing child pornography. When a search was executed at Beaver’s home, authorities allegedly found more than 6,000 images and more than 400 videos of child pornography on his computer.
“Those who trade in child pornography inflict great harm on the most vulnerable in our society by re-victimizing the children in the existing pornography as well as by fueling a market that requires new child victims,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Operation Wide Net and the scores of other child exploitation cases brought every year by my office demonstrate the Department of Justice’s dual commitments to prosecuting these offenders and to preventing the further abuse of children.”
“The children depicted in these images that were illegally shared are victimized time and time again,” said Jim Struyk, the Acting Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “Today’s announcement illustrates the prevalence of this crime and law enforcement actions should send a message that peer-to-peer networks do not shield criminals from prosecution.”
Six other defendants were arrested this morning as a result of federal indictments obtained as part of Operation Wide Net. They are:
• Jace Jeanes, 39, of Torrance, is charged with receipt of child pornography and possession of child pornography that he allegedly obtained using the BitTorrent file-sharing program. Jeanes allegedly possessed more than 20,000 images and videos of child pornography on computer equipment found during a search of his residence.
• Steven David Lavinsky, 58, of Long Beach, is charged in a three-count indictment with advertising, distributing and possessing child pornography in a case involving the Gigatribe file-sharing program.
• Kenneth Martin Medellin, 55, of Carson, is charged with receipt of child pornography and possession of child pornography using the Limewire file-sharing program.
• Antonio Joseph Garcia II, 41, of Upland, is charged with four counts of distributing child pornography, one count of receiving child pornography, and two counts of possessing child pornography. In addition to peer to peer file sharing, Garcia also allegedly sent and received child pornography by e-mail.
• Michael Brian Perry, 37, of Pasadena, is charged in a three-count indictment that accuses him of advertising, distributing and possessing child pornography.
• Curtis Audun Larssen, 33, of Los Angeles, is charged with receipt and possession of child pornography using the Ares file-sharing program.
The eight federal defendants arrested today are expected to be arraigned this afternoon in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles.
“File-sharing software has become increasingly popular with collectors and producers of child pornography because they mistakenly believe the technology shields them and their reprehensible criminal acts from detection,” said Mark Selby, acting special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. “But as today’s arrests make clear, cyberspace affords these predators no refuge from justice. HSI, together with its law enforcement partners, will continue to use every tool and resource at our disposal to pursue those who prey on and wantonly exploit the most vulnerable among us.”
As part of Operation Wide Net, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has charged three defendants in Los Angeles Superior Court with possession of child pornography. The three state court defendants – Michael Becerra, 30, of Long Beach; Cristian Carrasco, 23, of Compton; and Andre Desire Loustau, 71, of Van Nuys – were also taken into custody this morning.
Recently, as part of Operation Wide Net, prosecutors in the United States Attorney’s Office charged two other defendants, who are:
• James Breton Butler, 51, of Sherman Oaks, who has agreed to plead guilty to possession of child pornography, admitting that “he possessed several hundred thousand images of child pornography, as well as more than 20,000 videos of child pornography” obtained through the Ares file-sharing program. In a plea agreement filed yesterday, Butler agreed to plead guilty prior to being indicted. Butler will make his initial appearance in federal court next month.
• David John Gastelum, 53, of Palmdale, was arrested on March 10 after being named in an indictment that charges him with two counts of receiving child pornography and one count of possessing child pornography using the Ares file-sharing program. Gastelum has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to go on trial on August 9.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
The charge of advertising child pornography carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison and a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years. Distribution of child pornography and receipt of child pornography each carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison and a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years. The charge of possession of child pornography carries a statutory maximum sentence of 10 or 20 years in federal prison, depending on the nature of the images the defendant possessed.
President Barack Obama has declared April 2016 as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, during which “we recommit to giving every child a chance to succeed and to ensuring that every child grows up in a safe, stable, and nurturing environment that is free from abuse and neglect.”
Last month, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch released the 2016 National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction (http://go.usa.gov/cuWMR). The strategy provides a comprehensive threat assessment of the nature and scope of the current dangers facing our nation’s children, including child pornography offenses, sextortion and live-streaming of child sexual abuse, child sex trafficking, child sex tourism and sex offense registry violations.