North Carolina Man Sentenced to 17 Years for Engaging in an Internet-Based Child Pornography Conspiracy
Eight other men have already been sentenced for their roles in the conspiracy
PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced that Jarret Lea, 27, of Charlotte, North Carolina, was sentenced to 17 years in prison and 15 years of supervised release by Senior United States District Court Judge Harvey Bartle, III, for engaging in a conspiracy to advertise child pornography online. Lea was also ordered to pay a total of $33,221.45 in restitution to various victims. In April 2019, Lea pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to advertise child pornography.
Using Discord, an online communications application that allows users to share files and communicate via chat messages, Lea and his co-conspirators connected in private chat rooms to share child pornography and discuss how to exploit children to produce more child pornography. Using what they had learned in the chatroom, some of these men then entered legitimate live streaming websites and “groomed” children they found there into producing child pornography by performing sexual acts while being video recorded.
Judge Bartle has already imposed sentences in the following other related cases:
- Andrew Dowdle, 48, of Oswego, New York, was sentenced to 16 years in prison, followed by 15 years of supervised release. He pleaded guilty in April 2019.
- Carl Masters, 45, of Lawrence, Kansas, was sentenced to 27 years in prison, followed by lifetime supervised release. He pleaded guilty in April 2019.
- Ric Crossfield, 25, of Jamaica, New York, was sentenced to 14 years in prison, followed by 40 years of supervised release. He pleaded guilty in April 2019.
- Christian Brennan, 46, of Puyallup, Washington, was sentenced to 20 years in prison, followed by 10 years of supervised release. He pleaded guilty in April 2019.
- Sharif El-Battouty, 39, of Woodside, New York, was sentenced to 30 years in prison, followed by lifetime supervised release. He was found guilty at trial in May 2019.
- Timothy Friel, 40 of Penndel, Pennsylvania, was sentenced to 12 years in prison, followed by 15 years of supervised release. He pleaded guilty in August 2019.
- David Minnichelli, 30 of Califon, New Jersey, was sentenced to 15 years in prison, followed by lifetime supervised release. He pleaded guilty in October 2019.
- Marqueal Bonds, 22, of Chicago, Illinois, was sentenced to 22 years in prison, followed by lifetime supervised release. He pleaded guilty in March 2019.
“Jarret Lea and his co-conspirators caused irreparable harm to over 170 identified child victims,” said U.S. Attorney William McSwain. “These men shrouded their true identities in the anonymity of the internet and presented themselves as their victims’ peers in order to gain these children’s trust and exploit them sexually. The lengthy sentences handed out for this despicable behavior will not restore the innocence lost, but they do send a strong message that my Office will find and prosecute child predators, no matter where they lurk.”
“In order to ensure themselves a steady supply of new child pornography, Jarett Lea and these other predators conspired to befriend, manipulate, and sexually exploit scores of minors online,” said Michael J. Driscoll, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “The defendants thought they could hide behind fake names and handles and continue their violations with impunity. The FBI is proud to have fully unmasked them, shut them down, and brought them to justice.”
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 U.S. 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.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorneys Kevin Jayne (EDPA) and Seth Schlessinger (EDVA), and Trial Attorneys Kaylynn Foulon and Lauren Britsch, of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section.