United States Attorney’s Office Announces Convictions In Long-running International Child Pornography Ring
Two defendants trafficked child pornography in sophisticated conspiracy
INDIANAPOLIS - Josh J. Minkler, Acting United States Attorney, Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell and United States Postal Inspector Acting Inspector in Charge Troy Raper announced today the guilty verdict of two men charged with conspiracy to distribute and receive child pornography, conspiracy to advertise child pornography and engaging in a child exploitation enterprise. In a long-running, world-wide child exploitation enterprise, John D. Gries 48, Bayshore, New York and James McCullars 56, Huntsville, Alabama, were found guilty by a federal jury in Indianapolis after a six-day trial.
“Protecting the most vulnerable of our citizens is a responsibility I take very seriously,” said Minkler. “As these men have learned, you aren’t anonymous online – if you engage in this type of behavior, you will face the full force of federal justice.”
“Today's verdict is another example of the dedication the Postal Inspection Service has to the victims of this horrific crime," said Raper.
According to testimony at trial, the conspiracy began sometime in 2000 and operated continuously until April 2012. Gries and McCullars ran various online chat rooms that were protected by a password that was available exclusively to members of the conspiracy. These chat rooms were dedicated to the distribution, receipt and possession of child pornography, and were used by its members as a forum to discuss and promote the sexual exploitation of children.
Today’s defendants and many of the conspiracy members had amassed large collections of materials depicting child exploitation. Using these chat rooms and a number of online servers, the co-conspirators sought to expand their collections and evade law enforcement through the use of sophisticated data encryption software.
In addition, nine other defendants conspired to sexually exploit children and produce new videos and images of that abuse, which could then be distributed to members of the group. Minkler said that as part of this investigation, nearly one-hundred children around the world have been identified as victims of abuse.
Other “Operation Rounder” defendants charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office who have pleaded guilty or been found guilty include:
John Edwards, age 62, of Indianapolis, IN (17.5 years)
Thomas Vaughn, age 45, of Anderson, IN
John Rex Powell, age 43, of Fort Myers, Florida
Donald Printup, age 36, of Niagara Falls, New York
Michael Fredette, age 46, of Waterford, New York (27 years)
Robert Guillen, age 43, of Wesley Chapel, Florida
David Bebetu, age 51, of Agoura Hills, California
Stephen Harvey Dault, age 48, of McKinney, Texas (17 years)
Rick Ricardo Leon, age 53, of Arlington, Virginia
One of the charged defendants, John Rex Powell, had previously been convicted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office as part of an investigation and prosecution of two Australian citizens who allegedly orchestrated the sexual abuse of their adopted son at the hands of a number of men around the world. Minkler said that Powell’s alleged involvement in both schemes was key in dismantling this conspiracy.
According to Senior Litigation Counsel Steven D. DeBrota and Trial Attorney Amy Larson with Department of Justice – Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Gries and McCullars face up to life in prison and registration as sexual offenders.
This case was the result of a collaborative investigation led by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service assisted by the Indiana Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the Department of Justice’s High Technology Investigative Unit, as part of Project Safe Childhood. Led nationally by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (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 www.projectsafechildhood.gov.