Kingwood Resident Gets 35 Years for Sexual Exploitation of a Child
HOUSTON - A 43-year-old Kingwood resident has been ordered to federal prison for the sexual exploitation of a minor and possession of child pornography, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick. Stephen P. Lynch pleaded guilty June 6, 2018.
Today, District Judge Nancy F. Atlas sentenced Lynch to 360 months for sexual exploitation and five years for the possession charges, respectively. The sentences will run consecutive for a total of 35 years in federal prison. The sentence will be immediately followed by five years of supervised release during which time he will have to comply with numerous requirements designed to restrict his access to children and the internet. He will also be ordered to register as a sex offender.
At the sentencing today, Judge Atlas heard from the victim’s mother and sibling. They informed the court how Lynch’s actions have scarred their family for life, changed how they viewed the world and stole their sense of security.
The court considered the length of time the production occurred. The court also heard that the images are known to be in at least 222 collections of other individuals.
The investigation into Lynch began when Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents received information via the HSI Cyber Crimes Center regarding a referral from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). The referral advised that an unidentified female minor victim of a child pornography related offense was possibly located in the area of Houston. The child had appeared in a series of child sexual abuse images that were known to domestic and international law enforcement and had been traded over a period of two years. With the identity and whereabouts of the victim unknown, NCMEC analysts enlisted help from a horticulture expert from the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. He was able to narrow the geographical possibilities for the victim based on plant life in the background of images. With the search narrowed to 10 states, HSI analysts then focused on visible background items in the images. After extraordinary analytical efforts, the investigation let to Kingwood. Investigators searched local parks, dance studios, gyms and other venues for leads. After an exhaustive effort, authorities the suspect was located and the victim was rescued.
Approximately 173 images were included in the referral sent to HSI Houston. At least half of the images constitute child pornography under federal law. Some of the images depict the minor victim fully nude with the child’s genitalia lasciviously displayed.
On the evening of June 14, 2017, HSI agents identified the victim at a residence in Kingwood. At that time, they interviewed the homeowner, Lynch and he identified two non-pornographic images of the minor victim. He further stated that he personally took one of those images several years ago when she was three-years-old. He identified himself as the photographer of several non-pornographic images of the minor victim, including one that displays the minor relative wearing a black long-sleeve shirt with a pink glitter heart on the front. Several child pornographic images of the victim also include what appears to be that same shirt.
In the early morning hours of June 15, 2017, agents obtained a federal search warrant for Lynch’s residence. While authorities were obtaining the search warrant, Lynch went back into the house and destroyed thumb drives by putting them in the microwave. He also attempted to delete items off of a laptop.
He was arrested June 19, 2017, in Georgetown.
A forensic examination was performed on all of the items seized. During that review, agents found approximately 38 videos and five images of child pornography. The images and videos include children under the age of 12 and acts of violence such as the penetration of the victims. Some of the images are of known victims as identified through the NCMEC.
Further, agents found 71 images of the minor victim which constitute child pornography that Lynch produced by the defendant. To date, the images of this minor has been found in 222 other investigations and on the dark web.
Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation with the assistance of Montgomery County Constable Precincts 2 and 4, Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Conroe Police Department and the Smithsonian Gardens in Washington, DC.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Leo prosecuted the case.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc. For more information about internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc and click on the tab "resources."