Former Miami-Dade County Resident Who Engaged in “Sextortion” Sentenced to 225 Months in Prison
After pleading guilty to producing child pornography, a former Miami-Dade County resident was sentenced yesterday by U.S. District Court Judge Marcia G. Cooke to 225 months (19 years) in prison, to be followed by twenty-five years of supervised release.
Benjamin G. Greenberg, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Mark Selby, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), Miami Field Office, made the announcement.
Justin Shawn Smith, 35, formerly of Miami Beach, pled guilty on February 8, 2017, to two counts of production of child pornography, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2251(a).
The investigation began when ICE-HSI received a tip from the Cyber Crime Center, via INTERPOL London, that an 11-year-old girl in London reported that a 13-year-old boy named “Cody Mathews” convinced her to commit sexually provocative acts on the video-chat internet program Skype. The victim stated that she met “Cody” on the website kidschat.net. HSI identified Smith as the user of the “Cody Mathews” moniker.
Smith acknowledged that he pretended to be 13 years old while chatting on the website kidschat.net using various usernames. Forensic examination of Smith’s computer revealed an extensive chat history within the Skype program, showing that Smith engaged in hundreds of chats with different minor females using various aliases. HSI identified approximately 31 potential victims Smith chatted with in the United States and interviewed approximately 19, who were between the ages of 7 and 14 at the time they chatted with Smith. Generally, Smith would convince the minor girls to undress and to engage in sexually explicit conduct with a sibling or pet. Smith would often threaten the minor girls, stating that he would publish their nude photos or tell their parents if they did not do what he wanted.
Known as sextortion, online predators use this type of behavior to produce child pornography and take advantage of children through terror and manipulation. ICE-HSI aggressively investigates allegations of sextortion and other online offenses against children.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorney’s Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, 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 www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
Mr. Greenberg commended the investigative efforts of ICE-HSI, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and INTERPOL. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Elina A. Rubin-Smith and Ben Widlanski.