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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Four Defendants Receive Significant Sentences for Child Exploitation Crimes

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY December 18, 2018

SAN DIEGO - Federal judges sentenced four defendants -- Kenneth Bigler, Jospeh DeLeon, Denziel Buirke, and Karl Kenneth Abbott -- in separate Project Safe Childhood (PSC) criminal matters to significant time in custody yesterday, recognizing the gravity, irreparable harm and heinous nature of sexual offenses that victimize society’s most vulnerable citizens, our children.

“One of the Department’s most critical missions is protecting vulnerable children who cannot defend themselves,” said U.S. Attorney Adam L. Braverman.  “These sentences send a strong message that dangerous sexual predators will be placed under lock and key for as long as necessary to protect our children.”

“With today's sentencings, a voice was given to the most defenseless members of our society.  Protecting our children from sexual predators is a priority for the FBI,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge John Brown. “The FBI will continue to work with our law enforcement partners here and abroad, to protect our world's children from those who would seek to exploit their innocence.”

“Recent cases demonstrate there remains an urgent need to warn parents about the extraordinary risks that sexual predators pose to children.  Especially on the Internet, children are most vulnerable to victimization by people they mistakenly trust,” said Dave Shaw, HSI Special Agent in Charge in San Diego. “Those who engage in this criminal behavior should be forewarned that HSI, along with our law enforcement partners, will use every tool at our disposal to end the sexual exploitation of children and keep our children safe, whether they are around the block or around the world."

DEFENDANT                                                Criminal Case No. 17CR2509-JAH

Kenneth Bigler           Age: 54                      Walnut, CA

Kenneth Bigler was sentenced to 210 months in custody following his guilty plea to one count of Attempted Sexual Exploitation of a Child, in violation of 18 U.S.C § 2251(c) & (e). Bigler has been in federal custody since his arrest on August 14, 2017. Bigler’s term of custody will be followed by a 10-year term of supervised release.

According to public records, FBI agents conducting an investigation of Bigler discovered multiple electronic communications between Bigler and an individual in Mexico. Bigler and the individual were attempting to arrange meetings in Mexico, during which Bigler intended to engage in sexual activity with minors. In the communications, Bigler requested that the individual provide minors as young as eight years old to engage in sexual activity with Bigler in Mexico. When interviewed by the FBI, Bigler admitted to traveling to Mexico on multiple occasions, hoping to engage in sexually explicit conduct with minors. Bigler also admitted to agents that he engaged in sexual activity in Mexico with girls between 14 and 16 years old. Forensic analysis of digital and computer media possessed by Bigler revealed multiple videos, created by Bigler in Mexico, which depicted Bigler engaged in sexually explicit conduct with an apparent minor. Bigler then transported those videos through the Southern District of California to his residence in the Central District of California.

During the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge John A. Houston expressed concern about Bigler’s prior criminal history, which included multiple convictions for indecent exposure, and Bigler’s status as a registered sex offender at the time the current offense was committed. Judge Houston admonished Bigler that it seemed his prior convictions had not “tempered his treatment of young people” and emphasized his concern about the gravity of Bigler’s “extensive criminal conduct.” 

This matter is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Renee Green.

DEFENDANT                                                Criminal Case No. 17CR2509-JAH

Joseph DeLeon Cruz  Age: 58                      San Diego, CA

Joseph DeLeon Cruz was sentenced to 60 months in custody following his guilty plea to one count of Receipt of Images of Minors Engaged in Sexually Explicit Conduct, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(2). Cruz has been in federal custody since his arrest on April 2, 2018. Cruz’s term of custody will be followed by a 7-year term of supervised release.

According to the public record, on or before June 2, 2016, Cruz used a publicly available peer-to-peer file-sharing torrent program to receive digital files of visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct via the internet. The peer-to-peer file-sharing torrent program made those same files available for download by other users of the program. On four occasions between May 24 and June 2, 2016, a FBI agent obtained multiple complete files directly and solely from Cruz’s computer within his residence and they depicted images of prepubescent females engaging in sexually explicit conduct. Agents seized multiple items of digital evidence from Cruz’s residence pursuant to a federal search warrant. Upon forensic analysis, thousands of images and videos of minors, including prepubescent minors, engaging in sexually explicit conduct were found on two different devices (a hard drive and a laptop computer) seized from Cruz’s bedroom. In addition, multiple files indicating use of file-sharing software, or torrents, were found on Cruz’s laptop computer.

This matter is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Renee Green.       

DEFENDANT                                                Criminal Case No. 17cr2678-BEN

Denziel S. Burke                 Age: 20               El Cajon, CA

U.S. District Court Judge Roger T. Benitez sentenced Denziel S. Burke to 112 months in custody and five years of supervised release for sex trafficking of a minor. Burke previously pled guilty to trafficking a fourteen year-old minor female, admitting that he arranged for her to have commercial sex ads placed on backpage.com, a site commonly used for advertising commercial sex. Over the course of two days, Burke drove his victim to multiple locations throughout the Southern District of California where he arranged for her to perform commercial sex acts on unknown males. 

Burke directly arranged the commercial sex acts by text messaging with potential clients, determining the client’s address, and driving the minor female victim to the location of the client.  Burke admitted that he knew the victim was 14 years-old at the time he was transporting, harboring, and maintaining her for the purpose of performing commercial sex acts.  When the San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force attempted to arrest Burke on August 8, 2017, he struck an unmarked police vehicle and fled at a high rate of speed.  The San Diego Police Department rescued the minor victim that day, and the United States Marshals Service assisted in locating and arresting Burke two days later. 

In determining his sentence, Judge Benitez noted the irreparable harm caused to the victims of this heinous crime, and acknowledged the need for significant sentences to serve as a deterrent.   

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Roscoe.

DEFENDANT                                                Criminal Case No. 16cr2178-MMA

Karl Kenneth Abbott  Age: 59                      San Diego, CA

Karl Kenneth Abbott was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Michael M. Anello to 78 months in custody following his guilty plea to one count of Receipt of Images of Minors Engaged in Sexually Explicit Conduct, in violation of 18 U.S.C § 2252(a)(2). Abbott’s term of custody will be followed by a 7-year term of supervised release.

Abbott came to the attention of law enforcement due to his use of a publicly available peer-to-peer file-sharing program to receive images and videos of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct via the internet. The peer-to-peer file-sharing program made those same files available for download by other users of the program, as well as law enforcement. A search warrant was executed at the defendant’s home, and upon forensic analysis of seized items, hundreds of images and videos of minors, including prepubescent minors, engaging in sexually explicit conduct were found on two different seized computer devices.

This matter is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Janet Cabral.

INVESTIGATIVE AGENCIES:

San Diego Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force

San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Homeland Security Investigations

United States Marshals Service

San Diego Police Department

National City Police Department

The San Diego Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force is a national network representing over 4,500 federal, state, and local law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies, all working to combat the sexual exploitation of children through the internet.

The San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force combines the efforts of federal and local law enforcement to ensure that those who seek to do harm to the most vulnerable in our society are brought to justice.

Topic(s): 
Project Safe Childhood
Contact: 
Cindy Cipriani 619-546-9608
Press Release Number: 
CAS18-1218-Bigler, et al
Updated December 18, 2018