ORLANDO—U.S. Attorney Robert E. O’Neill announces that U.S. District Judge Charlene E. Honeywell has sentenced Justin E. Merchant (26, Orlando) to 210 months in federal prison for distributing child pornography. The court also ordered Merchant to forfeit the computers he used to distribute and store the child pornography. As part of his sentence, Merchant was also ordered to serve 20 years of supervised release following the completion of his prison sentence. Merchant pled guilty on September 28, 2011.
According to court documents, Merchant distributed child pornography using a file-sharing program over the Internet. During October and November 2010, law enforcement officers downloaded a total of 108 pictures and seven videos of child pornography from Merchant via the Internet. Subsequently, agents executed a search warrant at Merchant’s home and found more than 3,500 images and 500 videos containing child pornography on his computer. The majority of the images depicted sexual abuse of infants and very young children. Agents also found that Merchant distributed images to individuals through his e-mail accounts and encouraged an individual to record the sexual abuse of his young daughters and send the images to Merchant. In addition, Merchant actively sought out others with new child pornography with whom he could trade. The investigation also revealed that Merchant was sharing his files of child pornography with at least 50 individuals using a file sharing program.
The 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 (CEOS), 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.projectsafechildhood.gov. For more information about Internet safety education, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov and click on the tab “Other Resources.”
This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Karen L. Gable.