Criminal Justice News

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Two Individuals Sentenced to Federal Prison for Participation in Long-Running Online Child Pornography Ring



Two men were sentenced today for their roles in a sophisticated conspiracy to distribute child pornography online, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Joshua J. Minkler of the Southern District of Indiana.

John D. Gries, 48, of Bayshore, New York, and James McCullars, 56, of Huntsville, Alabama, were sentenced to 30 years and to life in prison, respectively, by U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Evans Barker of the Southern District of Indiana.  In November 2014, the defendants were convicted by a federal jury of conspiracy to distribute and receive child pornography, conspiracy to advertise child pornography and engaging in a child exploitation enterprise.

According to evidence presented at trial, from 2000 to 2012, Gries and McCullars operated various members-only online chat rooms dedicated to the advertisement, distribution, receipt and possession of child pornography.  The trial evidence, as well as admissions by other defendants prosecuted in connection with “Operation Rounder,” showed that McCullars, Gries and other members of the conspiracy used these chat rooms and a number of online servers to expand their personal collections of materials depicting the exploitation of children, and sought to evade law enforcement through the use of sophisticated data encryption software.

Operation Rounder has identified nearly 100 children around the world who have been identified as victims of abuse.  Other defendants who have been convicted in connection with this investigation include:

John Edwards, 62, of Indianapolis, sentenced to 17.5 years;

Thomas Vaughn, 45, of Anderson, Indiana, sentenced to 11 years;

John Rex Powell, 43, of Fort Myers, Florida, sentenced to 30 years;

Donald Printup, 36, of Niagara Falls, New York, sentenced to 14 years;

Michael Fredette, 46, of Waterford, New York, sentenced to 27 years;

Robert Guillen, 43, of Wesley Chapel, Florida, sentenced to 14 years;

David Bebetu, 51, of Agoura Hills, California, sentenced to 12.5 years;

Stephen Harvey Dault, 48, of McKinney, Texas, sentenced to 17 years; and

Rick Ricardo Leon, 53, of Arlington, Virginia, sentenced to 12.5 years.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, with assistance from the Indiana Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the Department of Justice’s High Technology Investigative Unit, as a part of Project Safe Childhood.  This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Amy Larson of the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section and Senior Litigation Counsel Steven D. DeBrota of the Southern District of Indiana.

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