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Press Release

Former U.S. Air Force member in Great Falls sentenced to 10 years in prison for scheme to obtain, sell child sexual abuse material

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Montana

GREAT FALLS — A former member of the U.S. Air Force at the Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls was sentenced today to 10 years in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release, for obtaining and selling child sexual abuse material, U.S Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.

The defendant, Brandon Earl Bankston, 23, pleaded guilty in October 2023 to possession with intent to sell child pornography.

Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided. The court also ordered $60,000 restitution to victims. To date, the investigation has identified more than 20 victims of Bankston’s scheme, but only 20 victims requested restitution. 

In court documents, the government alleged that Bankston obtained child sexual abuse material (CSAM) from various places on the internet and stored the material in an off-shore, cloud-based storage account. Bankston then used mobile messaging applications and fake online profiles to advertise the sale of the material to strangers online. When he found someone interested in the CSAM he possessed, Bankston received payment through electronic wire transfers and would then link the buyer, allowing access to the material stored in his offshore storage account. The government further alleged that Bankston possessed and traded thousands of images and videos of child sexual abuse, some of which depicted the abuse of toddlers. In the summer of 2021, the Great Falls Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force was alerted that a suspect in Montana had uploaded videos containing known CSAM to an account on “X” and further learned that a Snapchat user with a Montana address had posted an image of CSAM. The investigation determined that the internet provider address belonged to Bankston, who was an active-duty member of the U.S. Air Force assigned to the 341st Missile Security Forces Squadron at Malmstrom Air Force Base. Bankston has since been discharged and is no longer affiliated with the U.S. Air Force. Bankston received approximately $6,750 for the sale of CSAM from 42 separate transactions.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey K. Starnes prosecuted the case. The Great Falls Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations conducted the investigation.

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 U.S. Attorney’s Offices and the 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



Clair J. Howard

Public Affairs Officer


Updated March 13, 2024

Project Safe Childhood
Press Release Number: 24-66