A member of a highly sophisticated, global child exploitation enterprise dedicated to the sexual exploitation of children was sentenced to prison today.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Jill Westmoreland Rose of the Western District of North Carolina; Special Agent in Charge John A. Strong of the FBI’s Charlotte, North Carolina, Division; Special Agent in Charge Amy Hess of the FBI’s Louisville, Kentucky, Division made the announcement.
David Lynn Browning, 47, of Wooton, Kentucky, was sentenced to 240 months in prison for engaging in a child exploitation enterprise, along with a lifetime term of supervised release. U.S. District Judge Richard L. Voorhees of the Western District of North Carolina imposed the sentence. Browning pleaded guilty on Dec. 18, 2015, and has remained in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service since his arrest on July 29, 2015.
According to admissions made in connection with the plea, Browning acted as the global moderator of a highly-sophisticated global enterprise dedicated to the sexual exploitation of children, organized via a members-only website that operated on the Tor anonymity network, through which he and more than 150,000 other members authored and viewed tens of thousands of postings relating to sexual abuse of children as young as infants and toddlers. According to admissions, Browning was heavily involved in the day-to-day operations of the website – including managing membership, developing and enforcing strict rules and deleting website content that did not depict or discuss child pornography. Browning also admitted to spending hundreds of hours logged in to the website – authoring more than 1,000 postings, and designing the website logo. In addition, Browning admitted that website members employed advanced technological means in order to undermine law enforcement’s attempts to identify them, including the use of a hidden service on the Tor anonymity network and elaborate file encryption.
On Sept. 16, 2016, a federal jury convicted co-defendant and lead administrator of the site, Steven W. Chase, 57, of Naples, Florida, of engaging in a child exploitation enterprise and related charges. A sentencing date for Chase has not yet been set. On Jan. 12, 2017, co-defendant and co-administrator of the site, Michael Fluckiger, 46, of Portland, Indiana, was sentenced to 240 months in prison for engaging in a child exploitation enterprise, along with lifetime supervised release.
As a result of the ongoing investigation, at least 51 alleged hands-on abusers have been prosecuted and 55 American children who were subjected to sexual abuse have been successfully identified or rescued.
The FBI’s Violent Crimes Against Children Section, Major Case Coordination Unit and Digital Analysis and Research Center investigated the case with assistance from the FBI’s Charlotte, Louisville, Tampa and Boston, Field Offices. Trial Attorney Reginald E. Jones of the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) and Assistant U.S. Attorney Cortney Randall of the Western District of North Carolina prosecuted the case.