Second defendant receives life sentence for involvement in criminal network

SHREVEPORT – United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced today that

four additional defendants were sentenced yesterday, one defendant receiving life for their

involvement in an international criminal network organized to sexually exploit children

in connection with their participation in the Dreamboard Child Exploitation bulletin board.

Robert Sprague, 63, of Ferndale, Wash., was sentenced to life in prison for

participating in a child exploitation enterprise. Sprague was a high level member of

Dreamboard, making 560 posts containing hard core child pornography. Prior to joining

Dreamboard, he was convicted of two counts of molesting juveniles after molesting two

girls, ages four and six. After being convicted of those crimes, on three separate occasions,

the defendant was convicted of possession of child pornography.

At the sentencing Sprague stated that he was “hardwired” to be sexually interested

in young children and that he would continue to search out child pornography after he got

out of jail. The defendant argued that a minimal sentence was appropriate. The Court

advised the defendant that the sentence imposed should send a message to anyone who

would engage in similar activities that this defendant was engaged in. Those who choose

to exploit children should be warned.

The three remaining defendants sentenced today were all lower to mid-level

members of Dreamboard. Steven Perez, 24, of Santa Ana, Calif., was sentenced to 19 years

7 months in prison for conspiracy to advertise child pornography; Matthew McKee, 32, of

Maumee, Ohio, was sentenced to 22 years in prison; and Henry Hand, 23, of East

Brunswick, N.J., was sentenced to 20 years in prison, both for participating in a child

exploitation enterprise. All of the defendants were sentenced to lifetime supervised release

after they have served their prison terms. The sentences were handed down by U.S.

District Judge S. Maurice Hicks in federal court in Shreveport, La.

To date, 42 out of 72 individuals have been convicted for their participation in an

international child exploitation network. The network was dedicated to the sexual abuse

of children and the creation and dissemination of graphic images and videos of child sexual

abuse throughout the world.

The charges against these defendants were a result of Operation Delego, an ongoing

investigation that was launched in December of 2009 that targeted individuals around the

world for their participation in Dreamboard. Dreamboard was a private, members-only,

online bulletin board that was created and operated to promote pedophilia and encourage

the sexual abuse of very young children in an environment designed to avoid law

enforcement detection. Operation Delego represents the largest prosecution to date in the

United States of individuals who participated in an online bulletin board conceived and

operated for the sole purpose of promoting child sexual abuse, disseminating child

pornography and evading law enforcement.

All 72 of the defendants were charged with conspiring to advertise and distribute

child pornography, and 50 of the defendants were also charged with engaging in a child

exploitation enterprise. Out of the 72 charged defendants, 55 have been arrested in the

United States and abroad, 42 individuals have pled guilty, and one defendant was convicted

after a four-day jury trial. Forty of the forty-one individuals who have pled guilty for their

roles in the conspiracy have been sentenced to prison and have received sentences ranging

between ten years and life. Thirteen of the 72 charged individuals remain at large and are

known only by their online identities. Efforts to identify and apprehend these individuals

continue.

According to court documents and evidence presented at the trial of defendant, John

Wyss, aka “Bones,” Dreamboard members traded graphic images and videos of adults

molesting children 12 years of age or younger, often violently, and collectively created a

massive private library of images of child sexual abuse. The international group prized and

encouraged the creation of new images and videos of child sexual abuse - numerous

Dreamboard members sexually abused children, produced images and videos of the abuse,

and shared the images and videos with other members of Dreamboard.

Dreamboard members employed a variety of measures designed to conceal their

criminal activity from detection by law enforcement. Members communicated using aliases

or “screen names,” rather than their actual names. Links to child pornography posted on

Dreamboard were required to be encrypted with a password that was shared only with

other members. Members accessed the board via proxy servers, which routed internet

traffic through other computers so as to disguise a user's actual location and prevent law

enforcement from tracing internet activity. Dreamboard members also encouraged the use

of encryption programs on their computers, which password-protect computer files to

prevent law enforcement from accessing them in the event of a court-authorized search.

Membership was tightly controlled by the administrators of Dreamboard, who

required prospective members to upload child pornography portraying children 12 years

of age or younger when applying for membership. Once they were given access, members

were required continually to upload images of child sexual abuse in order to maintain

membership. Members who failed to follow this rule would be expelled from the group.

According to court documents, Dreamboard members were divided into groups

based on status and ranking. The highest level of membership was “Super VIP(.).”

Individuals who obtained that title had created new images of child pornography by

molesting children and shared those images with the board administrators. The next level

of membership was “Super VIP,” which was comprised of trusted members of the website.

The next level after Super VIP was the “VIP rank.” Individuals in the lowest level of

membership were called “Members.” Those in the lower ranks could only access a limited

quantity of child pornography on the bulletin board. The higher the rank, the more material

was available to the member. Individuals advanced to higher levels of membership by

providing child abuse images that the individual had produced, providing a large number

of images, or providing images that had never been seen before.

The bulletin board included rules of conduct, printed in English, Russian, Japanese

and Spanish. The rules required prospective members to upload material depicting children

under the age of 12 engaged in sexually explicit activity. Approved members were required

to observe strict posting rules designed to encourage members to disseminate large

quantities of child pornography, thwart efforts by law enforcement to identify members of

the board, and encourage members to sexually abuse children in order to produce new

material for the board. The board rules also required members to organize postings based

on the type of content. One particular category was entitled “Super Hardcore.” The rules

for that category described in graphic language that the only posts permitted were those

involving adults having violent sexual intercourse with “very young kids” who were being

subjected to both physical and sexual abuse and were obviously “in distress, and or crying.”

Operation Delego involved extensive international cooperation to identify and

apprehend Dreamboard members abroad. Through coordination between ICE; the

Department of Justice; Eurojust, the European Union's Judicial Cooperation Unit; and

dozens of law enforcement agencies throughout the world, 20 Dreamboard members across

five continents and 14 countries have been arrested to date outside the United States,

including two of the five lead administrators of the board. Those countries include Canada,

Denmark, Ecuador, France, Germany, Guatemala, Hungary, Kenya, the Netherlands, the

Philippines, Qatar, Serbia, Sweden and Switzerland. Numerous foreign investigations

related to Operation Delego remain ongoing. The location and arrest of Dreamboard

members abroad have led to the capture and investigation of other global targets.

Evidence obtained during the operation revealed that at least 38 children across the

world were suffering sexual abuse at the hands of the members of the group. Efforts by

federal, state, local and international law enforcement to locate and identify the victims of

sexual abuse and exploitation by Dreamboard members are ongoing.

Operation Delego is a spinoff investigation from leads developed through

“Operation Nest Egg,” the prosecution of another online group dedicated to the sharing and

dissemination of child pornography. Operation Nest Egg was a spinoff investigation

developed from leads related to another international investigation, “Operation Joint

Hammer,” which targeted transnational rings of child pornography trafficking.

United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley stated, “This was a very disturbing case.

The sentences are a result of the hard work of the investigators and their law enforcement

partners. After reviewing the evidence, the sentences handed down by Judge Hicks reflect

the seriousness of this criminal activity. We know that there is more work to be done, and

we will continue investigating and prosecuting these cases to the fullest extent of the laws.

We want the community to know that the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Department of

Justice, along with our federal, state and local partners, are committed to protecting children

from these vile criminals. They should know that they can’t hide on the internet, in other

countries or behind fake names.”

Special Agent in Charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New

Orleans, Raymond R. Parmer Jr., stated, “Child exploitation is one of the most heinous

crimes that HSI investigates. HSI will continue to work with its law enforcement partners,

using every tool at our disposal, to protect our most vulnerable and precious resource, our

children.”

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Luke Walker of the

Western District of Louisiana and Trial Attorneys Keith Becker and Anitha Ibrahim of the

Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) of the Justice Department's Criminal

Division. The Criminal Division's Office of International Affairs provided substantial

assistance. The investigation was conducted by ICE-Homeland Security Investigations, the

Child Exploitation Section of ICE's Cyber Crimes Center, CEOS, CEOS's High Technology

Investigative Unit and 35 ICE offices in the United States and 11 ICE attaches offices in 13

countries around the world, with assistance provided by numerous local and international

law enforcement agencies across the United States and throughout the world.

The investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE initiative to

identify, investigate and arrest those who prey on children, including human traffickers,

international sex tourists, Internet pornographers and foreign-national predators whose

crimes make them deportable.

ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious

activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE. This hotline is staffed around

the clock by investigators.

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