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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Central District of California

Friday, April 15, 2016

Santa Barbara County Man Named in Federal Case Alleging Production of Child Pornography by Enticing Minors over Internet

            LOS ANGELES – A man who resided in Carpinteria has pleaded not guilty after being named in a federal grand jury indictment that charges him with producing, receiving, distributing and possessing child pornography in 2015 – crimes he allegedly committed soon after completing a state prison term as a result of other child pornography offenses.

            Christopher Robin Coates, 41, was taken into federal custody Wednesday afternoon by federal authorities after the grand jury charged him on Tuesday. Coates was turned over by local authorities in Santa Barbara County, where an extensive investigation occurred resulting in him being charged by Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce E. Dudley with multiple child exploitation crimes. The District Attorney’s Office dismissed the state charges after the federal indictment was filed – an indictment that brings the possibility of a life sentence for Coates.

            Coates was arraigned Thursday afternoon in United States District Court in Los Angeles. At the arraignment, Coates pleaded not guilty to nine felony offenses in the indictment, and he was ordered to stand trial on May 24 before United States District Judge George W. Wu.

            Coates is specifically charged with two counts of producing child pornography by using Kik Messenger to entice two minor boys to engage in sexually explicit conduct last year. Coates also is charged with two counts of receiving child pornography after enticing the victims to engage in the illicit conduct.

            The indictment further charges Coates with three counts of using Kik Messenger to distribute child pornography (one count involves one of the victims allegedly enticed by Coates to send images), and one count of possessing child pornography involving a victim under the age of 12.

            The indictment alleges that Coates was convicted in Santa Barbara Superior Court in 2011 and in 2013 of possessing child pornography, as well as sexual battery of a disabled adult in 2010. Count nine of the indictment charges Coates with producing child pornography while being required to register as a sex offender as a result of his prior convictions.

            “This defendant, if he is convicted, faces a lengthy period of incarceration in federal prison – which would be warranted by his history of crimes against children,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “As this case unfortunately illustrates, child pornography is not a victimless crime; on the contrary, it victimizes the most vulnerable among us.”

            On July 15, 2015, law enforcement officers conducted a parole search of Coates’ residence. During the search, authorities recovered a Samsung tablet under a mattress that contained hundreds of images and videos of child pornography.

            “Protecting children from crimes of sexual abuse and exploitation is a priority for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service,” stated Robert Wemyss, Inspector in Charge for the Los Angeles Division. “I'm proud of the work of the Postal Inspection Service and our investigative partners to bring child predators to justice. U.S. Postal Inspectors have investigated these crimes for more than a century. While the predators' use of sophisticated technology has evolved, the core harm has not changed: a child's lost innocence. We will not lose sight of this, and remain steadfast in our efforts to investigate, apprehend, and assist in the prosecution of those who seek to exploit children via the U.S. Mail.”

            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.

            If he is convicted in this case, Coates faces a potential sentence of life without parole in federal prison. Because of his prior convictions, Coates also faces enhanced mandatory minimum sentences, including a minimum sentence of 35 years for the production counts, a minimum sentence of 15 years for the distribution and receipt counts, and a minimum sentence of 10 years for the possession count. The charge of committing child exploitation offenses while being require to register as a sex offender carries a mandatory consecutive sentence of 10 years in federal prison.

            “Protecting the most vulnerable members of society from predators is paramount, and the potential sentence in this case reflects the seriousness of the charges and the repeated harm he caused through the exploitation of children,” said James L. Struyk, Acting Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “Unfortunately the actions of this previously convicted child predator will never truly be erased from the Internet or from the minds of his young victims. This investigation is an excellent example of federal agencies working closing with the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s Office and taking swift action to protect our children.”

            The investigation into Coates was conducted by the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation provided substantial assistance. The investigation is the result of a tip to the Postal Inspection Service by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

Project Safe Childhood
Updated April 15, 2016