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Press Release

Brentwood Couple Sentenced For Conspiracy To Produce And Production Of Child Pornography

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of California
Woman and her then-boyfriend produced child pornography resulting in a 264-month sentence for the woman and a 360-month sentence for her then-boyfriend

OAKLAND – Matthew Lee Pelton and Heather Electa Halwig Gharibian were sentenced to 360 and 264 months in prison, respectively, for producing and conspiring to produce child pornography, announced United States Attorney Ismail J. Ramsey and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Tatum King. The sentences were handed down by the Hon. Jefferey S. White, U.S. District Judge.

Pelton, 50, of Brentwood, pleaded guilty to the charges on February 14, 2023. Gharibian, 53, of Brentwood, pleaded guilty to the charges on February 21, 2023. According to the plea agreements, both Pelton and Gharibian admitted that from March 29, 2021, to at least June 14, 2021, they conspired with each other to produce and film visual depictions of two minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. The defendants communicated via WhatsApp messenger that Pelton used to request that Gharibian perform sexual acts on a then 10-year-old child in her care. Pelton described his arousal, gave instructions on how to perform sexual acts on the victim, and requested that Gharibian make a video of the molestation of the child. In response to Pelton’s request, Gharibian performed requested sexual acts on the victim, filmed it, and sent it to Pelton. Further, both minor victims described how ring cameras were placed throughout their house, including their bedrooms and bathrooms, allowing Gharibian and Pelton to view them at will.

In papers submitted in connection with sentencing, the government argued Gharibian sexually exploited the minor victims in her care for the sexual gratification of her then-boyfriend, Pelton, who the government described as a “pedophile with a seeming predilection for preteens and teenagers.” At sentencing, Judge White stated that the defendants stole the victims’ childhood.

On November 17, 2022, a federal grand jury indicted the defendants charging both with conspiracy to produce child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2251 (a) and (e); production of child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2251 (a) and (e). In addition, Gharibian was charged with two counts of distribution of child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2252(a)(2), (b) and (e); and Pelton was charged with two counts of receipt of child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2252(a)(2), (b) and (e). Both defendants pleaded guilty to the conspiracy and production charges. In accordance with the plea agreements, Judge White dismissed the remaining charges at sentencing.

In addition to the prison term, Judge White ordered Pelton and Gharibian to serve 180 months of supervised release, which will begin after their respective prison terms. Restitution will be decided at a later hearing.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kenneth Chambers and Kelly Volkar are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Jasmine Sanders and Laurie Worthen. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by HSI, the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Investigation Office, and the Brentwood Police Department.

Updated June 29, 2023