A Kansas man was sentenced Friday to 210 months in prison and 10 years of supervised release for production of child pornography, stemming from his participation in an internet scheme that enticed minors as young as eight years old to perform sexually explicit acts on web cameras.
Allan Cortez, 34, of Wichita was charged on April 4 and pled guilty before U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III of the Eastern District of Virginia on April 14.
Cortez was part of a group that created false profiles of young teenagers – on social media and video sites popular with children – to lure minors to two websites they controlled. Once victims came to the sites, the men showed them pre-recorded videos of prior victims, often performing sexual acts, to convince those minors that they were live-chatting with another child.
Cortez leveraged the videos to convince the victims to engage in sexually explicit behavior on their own web cameras, which were then viewed live by adult members of the group. Cortez also recorded the videos and made them available for future download.
The websites encouraged adult members to participate by ranking their successes in luring children and garnering their participation in the scheme. Both websites have since been disabled by law enforcement.
Eleven additional group members have been convicted and sentenced in connection with the crime.
The investigation revealed that an estimated 1,500 minors were lured to the websites, including 357 victims in the United States and 43 victims in Canada. The FBI is continuing its attempt to locate victims.
“Believing they were cloaked in the anonymity of the Internet, the members of the group sexually exploited hundreds of children around the nation and globe through deceit and trickery,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
“This case exemplifies the threat of online predators to the world’s most unsuspecting and vulnerable victims. Our prosecutors and law enforcement partners are committed to overcoming the challenges posed by these complex investigations, identifying and notifying victims and their families and rooting out these offenders who lurk and hunt in the shadows of the web.”
“Crimes against children are among the most heinous crimes that the FBI investigates,” said Assistant Director Stephen E. Richardson of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “This case is a prime reminder of the FBI’s unwavering commitment to delivering justice to those who victimize the most vulnerable members of our society. It also serves as a warning that we will stop at nothing to find those who commit these despicable acts.”
In addition to his prison sentence, Cortez must also pay $15,215 in restitution.
The case was prosecuted by trial attorney Lauren Britsch of the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Whitney Russell of the Eastern District of Virginia.
This case was a result of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative started in May 2006 by the Justice Department to fight the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Project Safe Childhood coordinates federal, state and local resources to facilitate locating, apprehending and prosecuting individuals who exploit children using the internet. The project also identifies and rescues victims of exploitation.
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