In a prolonged court trial for 6 men alleged to have participated in an international child pornography production ring, Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the U.S. Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider of the Eastern District of Michigan, and Special Agent-in-Charge Timothy R. Slater of the FBI, Detroit Division on Thursday presented their judgement.
- Terry Kovac, 49, a dispatcher of a package delivery company of Las Vegas, Nevada, was sentenced to 37 years in prison, followed by 5 years of supervised release.
- Felipe Dominguez-Meija, 31, a painter of Springdale, Arkansas, was sentenced to 41 years in prison, followed by 5 years of supervised release.
- Noel Eisley, 38, a research scientist of Wappinger Falls, New York, was sentenced to 35 years in prison, followed by 10 years of supervised release.
- Eric Robinson, 42, a restaurant manager of Duluth, Minnesota, was sentenced to 34 years in prison, followed by 10 years of supervised release.
- Bret Massey, 47, a sales coordinator and design specialist of Portland, Maine, was sentenced to 32 years in prison, followed by 10 years of supervised release.
William Phillips, 39, a cook of Highland Park, New York, pleaded guilty to the charge of child exploitation enterprise in two cases for his participation in the above-described group as well as another, similar group with the same objective. Phillips entered guilty pleas on Dec. 21, 2017 and May 11, 2018. On the first case, Phillips was sentenced to 33 years in prison, followed by 5 years of supervised release. On the second case, Phillips was sentenced to 33 years in prison, to run concurrently, followed by 5 years of supervised release.
In addition to their prison sentences and terms of supervised release, all of the defendants were ordered to pay 5,000 dollars in restitution to each of the identified victims, reaching a total of over 1.4 million dollars. U.S. District Judge Stephen J. Murphy III for the Eastern District of Michigan imposed the sentences.
According to court records, these six men worked together from 2013 to April of 2017, with other men both inside and outside of the United States, to lure juvenile girls to two different unmonitored video chat websites and sexually exploit them. The men recruited the victims from common social media platforms by pretending to be teenage boys interested in chatting with the girls in real time. Once the victims arrived in the chatrooms, the group—all pretending to be teenagers—worked together to build trust and convince the child to engage in sexually explicit conduct on web camera. The group members then recorded that activity and shared it with each other. The girls were unaware that the men were making recordings, or what they dubbed “captures,” of the sexual activity.
Through their scheme, the group successfully recorded tens of thousands of sexually explicit videos of minors, some as young as 11 years old. The defendants preyed on more than 100 victims, some of whom were present for the sentencing hearing and made statements to the Court. Still, other victims have not been identified. The FBI has so-far identified 48 victims in the United States.
“The six men sentenced today are an example of a disturbing and reprehensible new trend: the ‘crowdsourcing’ of child exploitation,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski.
“These highly organized and coldly calculating defendants worked together over the course of several years, pretending to be teenage boys in order to entice more than 100 minor girls—some as young as 11 years old—into producing child pornography which the defendants then shared with each other.
“Thanks to the outstanding efforts of the agents and prosecutors who worked on this case, these men will spend years behind bars, and their victims—some of whom were present at the sentencing and addressed the Court—have received some measure of justice for the terrible harm done to them.”
“These predators committed truly horrific crimes against innocent girls, and they deserve decades in prison. Shockingly, some of these defendants have young children themselves,” said United States Attorney Schneider.
“Parents, please speak with your children about the dangers of chatting online so we can keep all of our children safe.”
“These appalling crimes victimize and exploit innocent children”, said FBI Special Agent in Charge Slater. “The arrest and prosecution of perpetrators who commit these heinous acts of violence will continue to be a high priority of the FBI’s SEMTEC task force.”
Assistant United States Attorneys April N. Russo and Kevin M. Mulcahy of the Eastern District of Michigan, along with Trial Attorney Leslie Fisher of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, prosecuted the case. The FBI’s Detroit Field Office and Southeast Michigan Trafficking and Exploitation Crimes task force investigated the case.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing 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.