Houston Woman Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to Traffic 13-Year-Old Female into The New Orleans Area to Perform Commercial Sex Acts
NEW ORLEANS – U.S. Attorney Peter G. Strasser announced that BRANDON WARD, age 33, a resident of Covington, Louisiana, pleaded guilty as charged before United States District Judge Eldon E. Fallon to a one-count Indictment charging him with distribution of images and videos depicting the sexual exploitation of children, including children as young as less than one (1) year old, in violation of 18 U.S.C. ' 2252(a)(2).
According to court documents, in about October 2019, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation operating in an undercover capacity, accessed a chat room within an instant messaging mobile application known to be a haven for purveyors of digital files depicting the sexual victimization of children. Between September 29, 2019, and October 13, 2019, an individual subsequently determined to be WARD posted over two dozen links to online file storage service accounts. Each link contained hundreds of videos depicting pre-pubescent children engaging in sexually explicit conduct with adults. In total, WARD uploaded to the accounts at least 47,000 files depicting the sexual victimization of children as young as one year old.
Additionally, a second FBI special agent acting in an undercover capacity participated in direct communication with WARD via Skype, phone, and text message. In the conversations, WARD claimed he had been in contact with an 8-year-old female (Minor 1) who had a crush on him. WARD sent non-sexually explicit pictures he took of Minor 1 to the undercover agent. WARD also instructed the undercover agent, who claimed to be babysitting a six-year-old female, to engage in sexually explicit conduct with the child while WARD watched via Skype.
WARD faces a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of five (5) years and a maximum term of imprisonment of twenty (20) years, followed by up to a lifetime of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine. He can also be required to register as a sex offender. Sentencing before Judge Fallon has been scheduled for March 18, 2021, at 2:00 pm.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (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. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
U.S. Attorney Strasser praised the work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in investigating this matter. Assistant United States Attorney Jordan Ginsberg is in charge of the prosecution.