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Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Minnesota

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Child Pornographer Sentenced To 33 1/3 Years In Prison

United States Attorney Andrew M. Luger today announced the sentencing of SEAN GERALD PENONCELLO, 42, for the production of child pornography involving two minor victims. On June 9, 2015, PENONCELLO was charged by superseding indictment with two counts of producing child pornography and one count of possessing child pornography. Following a three-day trial before Judge Patrick J. Schiltz, a jury on September 23, 2015, found PENONCELLO guilty of all counts. The defendant was sentenced today before Judge Schiltz.

“Penoncello is a predator,” said Assistant United States Attorney Laura Provinzino. “Not only did he commit a series of heinous crimes against women and children, but he also showed not one iota of remorse to his victims, including a 5-year-old girl entrusted to his care.  The long sentence handed down today is warranted.”

“The FBI remains committed to protecting those who are most vulnerable,” said Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Minneapolis Division Richard T. Thornton. “Those who would engage in the production, distribution, or viewing of child pornography will always be on the radar of law enforcement.”

As proven at trial, on April 3, 2014, a series of nude images of an unidentified five-year-old minor were submitted to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) that were traced back to PENONCELLO’s residence in Cherry, Minn. On March 27, 2015, law enforcement executed a search warrant of PENONCELLO’s residence and recovered two hidden thumb drives and a surreptitious recording device taken from PENONCELLO’s truck.

As proven at trial, the evidence contained on the two thumb drives revealed sexually explicit images and videos of a second minor victim, produced when the victim was 14-years-old. The thumb drives also contained numerous pornographic images and videos of other known NCMEC-identified minor victims.

If you know of any child who may have been a victim of exploitation, please call the National Center for Missing or Exploited Children (NCMEC) at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) or visit NCMEC’s web site at

This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office, with assistance from the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office, Virginia Police Department and Eveleth Police Department.

This was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Laura M. Provinzino and Benjamin F. Langner.

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, 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


Defendant Information:                                                                                                                     


Iron, Minn.


  • Production of Child Pornography, 2 counts

  • Possession of Child Pornography, 1 count


  • 33 1/3 years in prison

  • 10 years supervised release




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    United States Attorney’s Office, District of Minnesota: (612) 664-5600

Project Safe Childhood
Updated March 11, 2016