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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, September 15, 2014

Two Sentenced And One Pleads Guilty In Child Exploitation Cases

FRESNO, Calif. — Today in federal court in Fresno, one man was sentenced to nearly 22 years in prison for producing child pornography, one was sentenced to 10 years in prison for receiving and distributing child pornography, and a third man pleaded guilty to receiving and distributing child pornography, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.

Fresno Man Sentenced to Nearly 22 Years in Prison for Producing Child Pornography (1:12-cr-236 LJO)

Benjamin Ruiz, 29, of Fresno, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill to 21 years and 10 months in prison for producing child pornography.

According to court documents, in July 2012, Fresno law enforcement received a lead from the Concord Police Department that indicated Ruiz had been producing child pornography in Fresno in September 2010. A grand jury returned an indictment against Ruiz charging him with the above crime on August 2, 2012. He has been in federal custody and pleaded guilty to producing child pornography on June 3, 2014.

This case was the product of an investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, and the Concord Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Brian W. Enos prosecuted the case.

“While there is no way to undo the despicable crimes committed against these innocent and vulnerable children, it is a relief that the defendants found guilty of these crimes will no longer be in a position to carry out their criminal acts,” said Ray Greenlee, assistant special agent in charge for HSI San Francisco. “HSI will continue to work tirelessly with its federal and local law enforcement partners to seek justice for the young victims in these cases, who will bear the emotional and physical scars of these crimes for the rest of their lives.”

Former Kern County Man Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison (Case #: 1:13-cr-146 AWI)
Senior United States District Judge Anthony W. Ishii sentenced former Kern County resident Robert Aron Sprenkle, 36, to 10 years in prison, to be followed by 15 years of supervised release, for receiving and distributing child pornography, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.

According to court documents, between September 29, 2012, and November 4, 2012, Sprenkle received and distributed images of child pornography via the Internet. On May 16, 2013, he was arrested in Clearwater, Florida where he had relocated. This case is the result of an investigation by the United States Marshals Service with assistance from the Clearwater Police Department and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Assistant U.S. Attorney David Gappa prosecuted the case.

Fresno Man Pleads Guilty to Child Pornography Offense (Case #: 1:12-cr-403 LJO)
In a separate case, Bradley Allen Vaine, 28, of Fresno, pleaded guilty to two counts of receipt and distribution of child pornography. According to court documents, on October 25 and 27, 2012, Vaine received and distributed images of child pornography via the Internet He has been in custody as a danger to the community and a flight risk since his arrest on November 6, 2012. He is scheduled to be sentenced on December 8, 2014, by U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neil. The plea agreement contemplates a sentence of 25 years in prison and a lifetime term of supervised release. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court at the hearing. Assistant U.S. Attorney David Gappa is prosecuting the case.

This case was brought as part of Operation Sunflower, an international enforcement action, which ran from November 1 through December 7, 2012, spearheaded by HSI and aimed at rescuing victims and targeting individuals who own, trade, and produce child pornography. Operation Sunflower commemorated the one-year anniversary of a Kansas preteen victim who was located based upon a sunflower-shaped highway sign in the background of a picture.

All three cases were 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.justice.gov/psc. Click on the “resources” tab for information about Internet safety education.

Updated April 8, 2015