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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Pennsylvania

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, November 12, 2020

Pittsburgh Man Indicted on Child Sexual Exploitation and Sextortion Charges

PITTSBURGH – A former resident of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh on child sexual exploitation charges and for making threatening interstate communications with the intent to extort, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.

The five-count Indictment named Markell Smith, age 24, as the sole defendant.

According to the Indictment, on May 31, 2018, Smith transmitted a communication containing a threat to injure the person, property, and reputation of Minor 1, a minor female resident of New Jersey, and her family. The Indictment further alleges that on that day, Smith attempted to and did coerce and induce Minor 1 to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing a visual image and received and attempted to receive a visual depiction of Minor 1 engaging in sexually explicit conduct. The Indictment also alleges that on November 8, 2019, Smith possessed other visual depictions, namely videos and images in computer graphic and digital files, the production of which involved the use of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct.

The law provides for a maximum total sentence of up to 30 years in prison, a fine of $1,000,000 or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Assistant United States Attorney Heidi M. Grogan is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Red Bank (New Jersey) Police Department conducted the investigation leading to the Indictment in this case.

An indictment is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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.justice.gov/psc.

Topic(s): 
Project Safe Childhood
Updated November 13, 2020