Oklahoma Man Sentenced to Over 21 Years in Prison for Advertising and Distributing Images of Child Sexual Abuse
FRESNO, Calif. — Austen Peppers, 36, of Lawton, Oklahoma, was sentenced today to 21 years and 10 months in prison to be followed by 15 years of supervised release for advertising and distributing child sexual abuse material, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.
He was also ordered to pay restitution to 19 victims totaling $57,000.
According to court documents, between March 2018 and August 2019, Peppers sold and offered to sell images of minors being sexually abused. He conducted transactions on the dark web with cryptocurrency, using platforms and applications that he believed were secure and protected him from law enforcement scrutiny. Peppers also engaged in sexually explicit communications with persons he believed to be minors and encouraged those apparent minors to create sexually explicit images of themselves. Peppers amassed thousands of images and videos of children being sexually abused.
This case was the product of an investigation by the Homeland Security Investigations offices in Fresno, Chicago, and Oklahoma as well as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police with assistance from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol Tactical Team. Assistant U.S. Attorney David Gappa prosecuted the case with Trial Attorney James Burke IV of the Department of Justice Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section.
Peppers has been in custody since his initial appearance in this case on Nov. 14, 2019.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute those who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc. Click on the “resources” tab for information about internet-safety education.