Federal Jury Convicts Burleson Man of Child Pornography Charges
DALLAS — Following a one-week trial in Dallas, Texas, before U.S. District Judge Sidney A. Fitzwater, a federal jury has convicted Daryl Glenn Pawlak, 39, of Burleson, Texas, of two counts of child pornography offenses. The announcement was made today by U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas.
Specifically, late Friday afternoon, the jury convicted Pawlak of one count of receipt of child pornography and one count of access with intent to view material containing child pornography involving a prepubescent minor. Pawlak faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in federal prison for each count and a $250,000 fine. Following the verdict, Judge Fitzwater remanded Pawlak into custody. Sentencing is set for October 20, 2017.
This case arose from an FBI undercover operation involving an illegal member-only hidden-services website called Playpen. Playpen was dedicated to the advertisement and distribution of child pornography. Because Playpen operated as a hidden-services site, it was only available to users of the TOR network. The TOR network allows users and hidden-services sites anonymity by concealing the actual IP addresses of users and hidden-services sites.
Playpen categorized posts containing child pornography within forums and sub-forums according to the victim child’s age, gender, and type of sexual abuse endured, such as “Girls HC,” “Incest,” and “Toddlers.” Many of these posts displayed a preview image of child pornography, a link to download more child pornography, and a password to open the downloaded files. The website itself required a username and password to enter. Approximately 417,000 usernames were registered on Playpen at the time it was removed from the Internet.
Through the course of its investigation, the FBI discovered that the Playpen website was being run from within the United States. The FBI seized the server hosting the Playpen website and made the decision to conduct a limited, monitored, authorized two-week operation to catch individuals who had logged onto the site and clicked on certain posts within the site.
Pawlak was one of the individuals caught as a result of the FBI’s operation. Pawlak registered the username “notsoslow” with Playpen in September 2014 and had spent approximately 14.6 hours logged into the website prior to the FBI’s two-week operation.
The government presented evidence at trial showing on the morning of March 4, 2015, the last day of the FBI’s operation, Pawlak logged onto the Playpen site as user “notsoslow,” using his work computer at his house in Burleson, Texas. After clicking on a post within the site, the FBI deployed a network investigative technique (NIT) to “notsoslow’s” computer. The NIT instructed “notsoslow’s” computer to send to the FBI certain identifying pieces of information, including the actual IP address that was connecting the computer to the Internet, the MAC address of the network interface card of the computer, the name of the computer, and the username logged onto the computer.
Computer data captured as a result of the NIT showed that the MAC address, computer name, and username were consistent with having come from a computer that was provided to Pawlak by his employer (Employer One). The actual IP address resolved to Pawlak’s home address in Burleson, Texas. Forensic artifacts from this work computer showed that user “d.pawlak” had logged onto the computer earlier that morning and downloaded WinZip, a program that could be used to decompress files similar to many that were contained in Playpen.
Computer data collected during the FBI’s operation showed that a few minutes after the NIT deployed, user “notsoslow” navigated and clicked on two posts containing prepubescent child pornography, both of which were hosted in the “Pre teen Photos” “Girls HC” section of Playpen. Data from the Playpen server reflected that “notsoslow” had spent approximately 90 minutes logged into the site during the FBI’s two-week operation.
The government also presented evidence that two different work computers that had been assigned to Pawlak by two different employers both contained prepubescent child pornography in files associated with Pawlak’s computer usernames. The computer assigned to Pawlak by Employer One had forensic artifacts reflecting that the TOR browser had been installed, deleted, and reinstalled several times while the computer was assigned to Pawlak. The FBI also found forensic artifacts associated with the Playpen site, as well as file names consistent with child pornography. The jury heard testimony at trial that it appeared that Pawlak had undertaken some efforts to delete evidence of child pornography before returning the computer to Employer One.
On Pawlak’s second work computer, which had been assigned to him for merely three months, the FBI found over 800 images of child pornography and videos of child pornography depicting prepubescent children. Forensics also revealed that software used to wipe a computer’s hard drive was downloaded onto the computer shortly before Pawlak’s employer sent it to the FBI.
The FBI spoke with Pawlak as a part of its investigation. Pawlak confessed that he had been using his work computers to look at child pornography. He told the FBI that he began looking at child pornography sometime in 2012, he used TOR to find child pornography, and estimated that he had spent, on average, approximately half an hour a week on child pornography. Pawlak told the FBI that he preferred child pornography that depicted girls between the ages of 7-11 years old.
As a result of the FBI’s operation, at least 350 U.S.-based individuals have been prosecuted nationwide. At least 55 American children who were subjected to sexual abuse have been successfully identified or rescued, including at least four in the North Texas area. This case was prosecuted as a part of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Project Safe Childhood Initiative, which is aimed at protecting children from sexual abuse and exploitation. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.
The FBI investigated this case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jamie L. Hoxie and Paul Yanowitch are in charge of the prosecution.
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