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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, February 18, 2022

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

          LOS ANGELES – A Hawthorne man was sentenced today to life without parole in federal prison for engaging in a child exploitation enterprise, as well as creating child sexual abuse material (CSAM) of 20 young victims, some of whom were infants.

          Arlan Wesley Harrell, 27, was sentenced today by United States District Judge André Birotte Jr.

          Harrell 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, in 2016, Harrell joined on an online bulletin board dedicated to the sexual exploitation of children under the age of five. He used that bulletin board to distribute and advertise CSAM depicting three children.

          Harrell, along with co-defendants John Brinson Jr., and Moises Martinez, was an active member of this website, which was accessed via Tor, a computer network 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 in Fresno 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. Harrell was arrested in May 2017 and has remained in custody since that time.

          Co-defendant Martinez, 31, of San Jose, pleaded guilty to engaging in a child exploitation enterprise and production of child pornography in 2019, and he was sentenced in September 2021 to 55 years in prison, to be followed by lifetime supervised release.

          Co-defendant Brinson, 28, of Fresno, pleaded guilty to engaging in a child exploitation enterprise and production of child pornography in July 2021, and he is scheduled to be sentenced on April 22.

          A fourth co-defendant, Keith Lawniczak, 57, of Fresno, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a child in late 2019, and he was sentenced in August 2020 to 12 years in prison, to be 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.

          Assistant United States Attorney Devon Myers of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section, along with Justice Department Trial Attorneys Lauren S. Kupersmith and Kyle P. Reynolds of CEOS, are prosecuting the case. 

          This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide Justice Department initiative to combat the epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse.  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.

Topic(s): 
Project Safe Childhood
Contact: 
Thom Mrozek Director of Media Relations thom.mrozek@usdoj.gov (213) 894-6947
Press Release Number: 
22-031
Updated April 22, 2022