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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, July 25, 2022

Morgan Hill Man Sentenced To More Than 17 Years For Child Sexual Abuse Offenses

SAN JOSE – Johnny Ray Wolfenbarger was sentenced today to 210 months in federal prison for the attempted production of child pornography, the attempted coercion and enticement of a minor to engage in child pornography production, and the receipt of child pornography, announced United States Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Sean Ragan. The sentence was handed down by United States District Judge Edward J. Davila.

“All children, wherever they are, must be protected from being preyed upon by a sexual predator,” said United States Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds. “Johnny Ray Wolfenbarger leveraged the extreme poverty and desperation of foreign families to perpetrate sexual abuse on their young children. His prison sentence reflects these vile acts and the immeasurable harm he caused to these children’s lives.” 

“Child exploitation deprives children of their basic rights to safety and well-being. The physical and emotional trauma the defendant inflicted on child victims may alter their lives for years to come,” said FBI San Francisco Special Agent in Charge Sean Ragan. “Children deserve to be free from exploitation. It is of utmost importance to the FBI that children are made safe and that the creators of child pornography are caught and pay for their crimes.”

“CBP protects the public from many threats. The prosecution of child predators is only one aspect of our multi-faceted mission,” said CBP Acting Director of Field Operations Bruce Murley. “We will continue to work closely with our Federal and State law enforcement partners to ensure the safety of the most vulnerable in our society.” 

Wolfenbarger, 65, of Morgan Hill, was convicted by a federal jury on August 12, 2021, of all child sexual abuse offenses charged against him. According to evidence presented at trial, the FBI initiated an investigation into Wolfenbarger after receiving a CyberTipline report from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) that Wolfenbarger received and distributed child pornography using his email account. In 2016, a federal magistrate judge issued a search warrant authorizing the FBI to examine the contents of the email account for child pornography. The FBI executed the warrant on the email account and discovered numerous images and videos of child pornography, chats detailing Wolfenbarger’s solicitation of livestreamed child sex abuse shows, and receipts for money transfers by Wolfenbarger to numerous sex traffickers the Philippines who were selling these shows. The chats demonstrated that Wolfenbarger customized these livestreamed sex shows by directing the children to engage in specific sex acts on camera.

Further trial evidence showed Wolfenbarger traveled to the Philippines throughout 2015 and early 2016. On August 2, 2016, he returned to the United States. Upon his arrival, an FBI Special Agent interviewed Wolfenbarger. Wolfenbarger admitted during the interview that the email account belonged to him. He further admitted that he solicited, paid for, and directed livestreamed child sex abuse shows from numerous women in the Philippines. Wolfenbarger directed the children in the shows to engage in sex acts by themselves, upon each other, and upon adults, and directed the use of bottles, vibrators, and other sex toys during these acts. He also directed adults in the show to engage in sex acts upon the children and to use the sex toys upon them. The children who were in these shows engaging in sex acts, Wolfenbarger admitted, were twelve years old and younger – including as young as four years old.

Wolfenbarger further described that he watched the livestreamed child sex abuse on his desktop and laptop computers at his home in California. Trial evidence showed that he paid for the live webcam sessions via Western Union and by using the tip function of the webcam service. Western Union records documented over $25,000 in money transfers from Wolfenbarger to individuals in the Philippines. On several occasions, Wolfenbarger sent money to the children or their guardians for living expenses and to purchase sex toys and web cams, with the explicit understanding that he would receive sex shows in return. 

The government’s trial evidence included Wolfenbarger’s recorded statements, records of his chats, images and videos of child pornography attached to emails that Wolfenbarger received and sent, and Western Union records of money transfers sent by Wolfenbarger to pay for the livestreamed child sex abuse.

In a memo filed for sentencing, the government highlighted Wolfenbarger’s callousness towards the children. Online sexual exploitation of vulnerable children in the Philippines has greatly increased in recent years due to demand from pedophiles in wealthy Western nations, the government described. In this case, the government outlined how the extreme poverty of the young victims and their families provided extensive leverage to Wolfenbarger, who used his payments to induce the young victims and their families to create sex shows for him. Several sex chats feature victims’ requests for money to pay for food, overdue rent, school fees, and other necessities. As an example, in one chat a young victim asked Wolfenbarger for money to attend a school Christmas party with her cousin. Wolfenbarger wired her approximately $30 worth of Philippine Pesos, then added, “dad need a good show later my daughter.” 

The federal jury convicted Wolfenbarger of all counts in the superseding indictment. The mandatory minimum and statutory maximum sentences for the crimes are as follows: 

  • for attempted production of child pornography in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 2251(a) and (e): imprisonment for a minimum term of 15 years and a maximum term of 30 years; and a minimum term of supervised release of 5 years and a maximum of life; 
  • for attempted coercion and enticement of a minor to engage in the production of child pornography in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2422(b): imprisonment for a minimum term of 10 years and a maximum term of life; and a minimum term of supervised release of 5 years and a maximum of life; and 
  • for the receipt of child pornography in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2252(a)(2): imprisonment for a minimum term of 5 years and a maximum term of 20 years; and a minimum term of supervised release of 5 years and a maximum of life. 

In addition to the 210 month prison term, Judge Davila sentenced Wolfenbarger to a 15 year term of supervision upon release from federal prison. The defendant was in custody at the hearing and begins serving his prison term immediately.

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 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 http://www.justice.gov/psc.

Assistant United States Attorneys Marissa Harris and Maia Perez prosecuted the case, with the assistance of paralegal Mimi Lam and legal assistants Susan Kreider and Sahib Kaur. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and United States Customs and Border Protection. 
 

Updated July 26, 2022