December 2, 2022

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California Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Engaging in a Child Exploitation Enterprise and Creating Child Sexual Abuse Material of Four Young Children

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A California man was sentenced today to life in prison for engaging in a child exploitation enterprise and creating child sexual abuse material (CSAM) of four young children, including children he abused with his co-defendants who were previously sentenced.

John Richard Brinson Jr., 28, of Fresno, pleaded guilty on July 23, 2021, to engaging in a child exploitation enterprise and four counts of production of child pornography, each representing a different victim. According to court documents and information stated during court proceedings, in 2016 and 2017, Brinson distributed and advertised CSAM on a website dedicated to the sexual abuse of children ages zero to five years old.  Brinson, along with co-defendants Arlan Harrell and Moises Martinez, was an active member of this website, which was hosted on Tor, a computer network on the dark web that is specifically designed to facilitate anonymous communication over the internet. Brinson used the website to view CSAM, to advertise and distribute CSAM, including CSAM he produced, and to encourage other members to post more CSAM. Additionally, Brinson used this website to meet like-minded offenders, including Harrell and Martinez, and commit additional offenses against children with them in-person.

“Those who engage in child exploitation enterprises and create child sexual abuse material will be tracked down and held accountable for their heinous conduct,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Preying on children with no regard to the grievous harm abusers cause to their victims and their families will not be tolerated.  I commend the prosecution team and our law enforcement partners who worked tirelessly to ensure that these defendants would be held accountable for their crimes and justice sought for the victims.” 

“The sentence imposed in this case is warranted by the defendant’s callous and violent abuse of children, some of whom were filmed while screaming in pain,” said U.S. Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison for the Central District of California. “The child exploitation enterprise impacted more than 20 victims – children who were sexually assaulted, sometimes repeatedly, solely for the pleasure of this defendant and his cohorts. The Justice Department will continue its effort to protect the most vulnerable among us by aggressively prosecuting the most dangerous predators.”

“The depravity of this enterprise was reflected in today’s sentencing,” said acting Special Agent in Charge Eddy Wang of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Los Angeles. “Homeland Security Investigations prioritizes crimes of victimization and will leave no stone unturned to rescue every victim possible and bring every perpetrator to justice. I am very proud of the Homeland Security Investigations special agents from Boston, Fresno and right here in Los Angeles that worked tirelessly with our partners at the Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Los Angeles Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force to protect our most innocent and remove these predators from our communities.”   

According to court documents and information stated during court proceedings, Brinson created child sexual abuse material of children with ages ranging from approximately three to nine years old. On at least two separate occasions, Brinson and Harrell met at Brinson’s home to create CSAM depicting their sexual abuse of two of the minors together. On one of those occasions, Harrell secured the custody of another minor and traveled with the minor to Brinson’s house to create CSAM depicting both Harrell and Brinson engaging in the sexual abuse of that minor. On another occasion, Brinson and Martinez arranged to meet at Brinson’s house to create CSAM depicting their sexual abuse of two minors together, one brought by Brinson and one by Martinez. In total, Brinson, Martinez and Harrell pleaded guilty to creating CSAM depicting themselves engaging in sexual acts with or otherwise sexually exploiting more than 20 children under the age of nine, including 10 children four years of age or younger. The CSAM that Brinson created by himself and with his co-defendants took place in the house he shared with co-defendant Keith Lawniczak. According to court documents and information stated during court proceedings, Lawniczak admitted that he offered Brinson a room in his house to live in free of charge and benefitted from Brinson’s abuse of one of the minors because he had an opportunity to view the sexual acts between Brinson and the minor. 

Co-defendant Martinez pleaded guilty to engaging in a child exploitation enterprise and production of child pornography and was sentenced to 55 years in prison, followed by lifetime supervised release. Lawniczak pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a child and was sentenced to 12 years in prison and lifetime supervised release. Harrell pleaded guilty to engaging in a child exploitation enterprise, obtaining custody of a minor for purposes of producing child pornography, production of child pornography, and possession of child pornography and was sentenced to life in prison.

Homeland Security Investigations’ (HSI) Los Angeles office, along with HSI’s Fresno and Boston offices, investigated the case. The High Technology Investigative Unit of the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) provided significant assistance.

Trial Attorneys Lauren S. Kupersmith and Kyle P. Reynolds of the Criminal Division’s CEOS and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Devon Myers and Kim Meyer for  the Central District of California prosecuted the case. 

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse, launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice.  Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and 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.justice.gov/psc.

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