LOS ANGELES – Federal authorities today announced a series of child sexual exploitation cases alleging the victimization of minors – sometimes by convicted sex offenders – and charging a range of crimes that include sex trafficking, enticing a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity and producing child pornography.
United States Attorney Martin Estrada, FBI Assistant Director in Charge Donald Alway, and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Acting Special Agent in Charge Eddy Wang made the announcement.
In eight new cases filed in recent weeks – five resulting from FBI-led investigations, and three from investigations led by Homeland Security Investigations – nine defendants are accused of exploiting children in person and on the internet. There have been significant recent developments in other child exploitation cases being prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office, including a life sentence imposed on an offender who filmed his sexual assaults of disabled children.
The cases announced today are part of Project Safe Childhood, which is the Justice Department’s longstanding initiative to combat the ongoing epidemic of child exploitation crimes.
“Protecting our children from sexual exploitation is some of the most important work my office does,” said United States Attorney Estrada. “For years, we have vigorously prosecuted child sexual predators, and we have only increased those efforts in recent times. To those who would seek to victimize our youth, let me be clear: We will use every tool in our arsenal to bring you to justice and thereby stop you from causing further irreparable harm to others.”
“The various cases being announced today are a reminder of the constant threat of sexual extortion minors face, as well as the persistent demand for child pornography,” said FBI Assistant Director Alway, who runs the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “Whether an offender sexually abuses a child in person or online, or continues to exploit children by producing or sharing images of sexual abuse, the FBI and our partners will continue to seek justice for innocent victims by holding offenders accountable.”
“HSI Los Angeles is committed to removing sexual predators from our streets and working aggressively to hold them accountable for their heinous actions,” said HSI Acting Special Agent in Charge Wang.
The new cases announced today are:
United States v. Griffin
Dakota R. Griffin, 33, of Benton, Illinois, was arrested on March 8 for allegedly coercing a 16-year-old girl he encountered online to produce child sexual abuse material (CSAM) by making her believe he was holding one of her online friends captive and that he was associated with the Ku Klux Klan. The complaint alleges that Griffin further demanded that the victim travel to Illinois to have sex with him. During their communications, Griffin allegedly threatened to kill her and her family. After learning that the victim suffered from seizures, Griffin told her that he had always wanted to sexually abuse “a girl while she had a seizure,” according to court documents. During his initial appearance in a federal court in Illinois, Griffin was ordered detained pending trial. The FBI is investigating this case. Assistant United States Attorney Jeremiah Levine from the Violent and Organized Crime Section is prosecuting this matter.
United States v. Lozano
A criminal complaint filed Friday charges Ivan Lozano, a 36-year-old resident of Long Beach, with enticing a minor victim to commit sexual acts and possession of child pornography. Over the course of nearly two years, starting when the victim was 14, Lozano allegedly encouraged and enticed a girl a residing in Tanzania to repeatedly send him videos and photos of a sexual nature using the WhatsApp social media application. In October 2021, according to the complaint affidavit, Lozano traveled to Tanzania for the purpose of having sex with the girl, which he recorded on video. Lozano is currently a fugitive being sought by the FBI, which conducted the investigation in this matter together with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Assistant United States Attorney Bruce Riordan from the Violent and Organized Crime Section is prosecuting case.
United States v. Sheehan
Dustan David Sheehan, 45, of Hollywood, surrendered on Friday after being named in a criminal complaint that accuses him of distributing child pornography and possession of and access with intent to view child pornography. In an August 2020 conversation with an undercover agent on the Kik internet messaging platform, Sheehan discussed his desire to meet and sexually abuse the undercover’s fictitious 9-year-old daughter, according to the complaint affidavit. Sheehan allegedly also shared sexually explicit images with the undercover agent. During a subsequent search of Sheehan’s residence, investigators FBI identified approximately 2,919 CSAM images and 21 CSAM videos on Sheehan’s digital devices, the affidavit states. During his initial appearance Friday afternoon, Sheehan was released on a $100,000 bond and was ordered to reside at a residential rehabilitation center. The FBI is investigating this matter. Assistant United States Attorneys Jeffrey Chemerinsky and Hava Mirell from the Violent and Organized Crime Section are prosecuting this case.
United States v. Kicyla
A federal grand jury on March 8 returned a three-count indictment charging Nathan Kicyla with coercing a 10-year-old girl he encountered online to engage in sexually explicit conduct. The indictment charges Kicyla with sexual exploitation of a child for the purpose of producing a sexually explicit visual depiction, enticement of a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity, and commission of a felony offense involving a minor while required to register as a sex offender. If convicted, Kicyla would face a mandatory minimum sentence of 35 years in federal prison.
Kicyla, 39, of Van Nuys, whose screen name was “Nathan-Bert-2,” is currently in federal custody on a supervised release violation stemming from a 2007 conviction of sexually exploitation of minors in the Eastern District of California.
The FBI field offices in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. are investigating this matter. Assistant United States Attorney Kevin Butler from the Violent and Organized Crimes Section is prosecuting this case.
United States v. Johnson
Ian Nathanial Johnson, 36, of Santa Clarita, was arrested Friday after prosecutors filed a criminal complaint charging him with distribution and possession of child pornography. The investigation into Johnson was launched after the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received information that Johnson had uploaded CSAM to a Dropbox account, according to the complaint affidavit. Pursuant to a search warrant, agents seized Johnson’s digital devices and discovered over 200 images of child pornography and chats on Telegram, several of which included images of prepubescent children and children in bondage, the affidavit states. Johnson is scheduled to make his initial appearance on Wednesday in United States District Court. Homeland Security Investigations is conducting the investigation into Johnson. Assistant United States Attorney Catharine Richmond from the Violent and Organized Crime Section is prosecuting this case.
United States v. Anderson and Thomas
Norrell Alan Anderson, 24, of San Francisco, and Raeonnah Raina Thomas, 20, of Santa Rosa, were named in a criminal complaint filed on March 3, alleging they conspired to transport minors across state lines for the purpose of prostituting them. Anderson and Thomas are currently in state custody on charges that have been brought by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. Homeland Security Investigations and the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force – which includes the Irvine, Anaheim and Santa Ana police departments, as well as the California Highway Patrol – are investigating this case. Assistant United States Attorneys Lyndsi Allsop from the Violent and Organized Crime Section and Kristin Spencer from the Santa Ana Branch Office are prosecuting this matter.
United States v. Gissell
Thomas Gissell, 27, of Moorpark, was arrested on March 6 on charges of attempted enticement of a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity for allegedly soliciting sexually explicit photos from two individuals he thought were 14-year-old girls, but who were actually undercover agents. Gissell is scheduled to be arraigned on April 11. The newly formed, FBI-led Ventura County Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force is investigating this case. Assistant United States Attorney Kellye Ng from the Violent and Organized Crime Section is prosecuting this matter. AUSA Ng is the office’s Project Safe Childhood coordinator.
United States v. White
Parker William White, 22, of Johnsonville, New York, a former Army private based at Fort Irwin, was indicted by a federal grand jury on Friday on charges of possession of child pornography. White was arrested on February 24 pursuant to a criminal complaint that alleges White used Instagram and other social media platforms to find minor “girlfriends” as young as 14. White would groom these minor girls by telling them that he would treat them like “queens,” according to the complaint’s affidavit. Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division investigated this case. Assistant United States Attorney Lyndsi Allsop from the Violent and Organized Crime Section is prosecuting this matter.
There have been developments recently in other child exploitation cases being prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office. Those cases are:
United States v. Dorame
Francisco Anthony Dorame, 41, of Echo Park, was sentenced on March 8 to 20 years in federal prison for using an online messenger app last year to attempt to sexually traffic two children – ages 7 and 9 – and for distributing sexually explicit images of children. Dorame was also sentenced to a lifetime period of supervised release and ordered to pay $33,000 in restitution to 11 victims. Dorame pleaded guilty in October 2022 to one count of attempted sex trafficking of a child under 14 years old and one count of distribution of child pornography.
During a conversation on the Kik platform, Dorame made two payments totaling $100 to a person who had access to the victims. Among other things, Dorame requested photographs of the victims, expressed his desire to “play with them right away” upon meeting up, and set a specific date, time and location for the meeting. In April 2022, Dorame used Kik to distribute sexually explicit images of children between 4 and 6.
“[Dorame’s] lifelong and dangerous obsession with girls has manifested in an extensive collection of child sex abuse material, several attempts to procure girls for sex acts, and inappropriate relationships with then-minors,” prosecutors argued in a sentencing memorandum. “[Dorame’s] possession and dissemination of child sex abuse material are not victimless crimes, either. Here, the real victims portrayed in the child sex abuse material defendant possessed and distributed provide heartbreaking accounts of the harm they have suffered, and continue to suffer.”
The FBI investigated this matter. Assistant United States Attorney Kathy Yu from the Violent and Organized Crime Section prosecuted this case.
United States v. Rodriguez, Bocardo and Banguguilan
Two men who were found guilty by a jury last year of receiving and possessing videos of sexual assaults of severely disabled children were sentenced on February 24 to lengthy prison terms. Miguel Bocardo, 23, of Baldwin Park, was sentenced by United States District Judge John W. Holcomb to 18 years in federal prison. Cyr Dino Banguguilan, 36, of Azusa, was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Their co-defendant – Steve Rodriguez, 38, of Pomona – systematically raped at least three disabled children for years while working as a certified nursing assistant at a group home facility in San Bernardino County. Rodriguez filmed these repeated attacks and sent some of these child pornography films to others, including Bocardo and Banguguilan.
Rodriguez pleaded guilty to eight child exploitation offenses and in January 2023 was sentenced to life in federal prison.
Homeland Security Investigations investigated this matter as part of the Los Angeles Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The United States Postal Inspection Service, the FBI, the Baldwin Park Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles Police Department, the Pomona Police Department, and the Burbank Police Department provided assistance. Assistant United States Attorneys Catharine Richmond and Scott Lara from the Violent and Organized Crime Section prosecuted this case.
United States v. Schmitt
Matthew Timothy Schmitt, 36, of Fontana, was sentenced on March 6 to 135 months in federal prison for attempted enticement of a minor for sexual purposes. Schmitt was arrested after communicating with an undercover agent, whom Schmitt believed was a 13-year-old girl, and travelling to Riverside for sex with the minor. The court also ordered that Schmitt serve a lifetime period of supervised release. The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office investigated this matter with assistance from the Fontana Police Department. Special Assistant United States Attorney Kaitlyn Lasater from the Riverside Branch Office prosecuted this case.
United States v. Bradford
Donavin Dwayne Bradford, 31, of South Los Angeles, was charged in a superseding indictment filed on February 24 with sex trafficking four victims, including three minors (ages 15 to 17), and an adult victim, whom Bradford allegedly trafficked using threats of force, fraud and coercion. Bradford is also charged with producing and possessing child pornography featuring his trafficking victims. Bradford allegedly advertised his victims on the internet and instructed them to walk “blades,” areas commonly known for prostitution, to make money for him. He also allegedly used violence and threats of violence to control his victims. Bradford is detained pending a trial scheduled to begin on April 11.
The FBI’s Los Angeles Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force investigated this matter in coordination with the Los Angeles Police Department, the Inglewood Police Department, the Pomona Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, the Santa Maria Police Department, and the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services. Assistant United States Attorneys Chelsea Norell and Kathy Yu from the Violent and Organized Crime Section are prosecuting this case.
Indictments and criminal complaints contain allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
The charges of enticing a minor victim to commit sexual acts and producing child pornography carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison and a statutory maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.
The charges of distributing and receiving child pornography carry a five-year mandatory minimum sentence and a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
Possession of child pornography does not carry a mandatory minimum sentence, but a conviction on this charge can bring a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison.
The charge of conspiracy to transport minors across state lines for the purpose of prostitution carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison and a statutory maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
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These cases are being prosecuted as part of the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Childhood program, which combats the sexual exploitation of children through impactful federal criminal investigations and prosecutions. The goal of the program is to provide children with a childhood safe from sexual exploitation and with resources if they become victims.
In addition to the efforts of prosecutors and investigators in bringing child exploitation offenders to justice, authorities are engaging in public outreach efforts designed to prevent children from being victimized in the first place. Educational efforts aimed at teens encourage them to reject online solicitations, warning young people that you don’t really know someone online, especially if you have not engaged in video chats with them. Those warnings include typical “red flags” that include requests for “nudes,” to talk about sex, to meet in real life, or for money.
When any problems arise, teens are encouraged to get help from a trusted adult, to block the other person from contacting them, and to get help removing any unwanted images from the internet. If you believe you or someone you know are the victim of child sexual exploitation, please visit our website, which contains information about reporting, education, services and how to submit a request to remove child exploitation images posted online.