A California man was today sentenced to life in prison for engaging in a child exploitation business, creating child sexual abuse material (CSAM) of 20 victims who ranged in age from infancy to age nine, obtaining custody of a minor for CSAM production purposes, and owning CSAM.
Arlan Wesley Harrell, 27, of Hawthorne, pleaded guilty on July 7, 2021 to participating in a child exploitation business, obtaining custody of a minor for the purpose of producing child pornography, production of child pornography and possession of child pornography.
According to court documents, from 2016 to 2017, Harrell distributed and advertised CSAM depicting three children on an online message board dedicated to the sexual exploitation of children under five. Harrell, along with co-defendants John Brinson Jr. and Moises Martinez, was an active member of that website, which was hosted on Tor, a dark web computer network specifically designed to facilitate anonymous communication on the Internet. Harrell was also granted custody of a minor and traveled with him to Brinson to create the CSAM of that minor and two other children together. In total, Harrell created CSAM depicting himself engaging in sex acts with or sexually exploiting 20 children, including nine children four years of age or younger.
Co-defendant Martinez pleaded guilty to participating in a business of child exploitation and production of child pornography on September 13, 2019 and was sentenced on September 17, 2021 to 55 years in prison followed by supervised release for life. Co-defendant Brinson Jr., pleaded guilty to participating in a child exploitation and child pornography business on July 23, 2021, and is expected to be sentenced on April 22. A fourth co-defendant, Keith Lawniczak, pleaded guilty to conspiracy. for committing the sex trafficking of a child on December 19, 2019 and was sentenced on August 13, 2020 to 12 years in prison followed by life probation.
The Los Angeles office of Homeland Security Investigations, along with the Fresno and Boston offices of HSI, investigated the case. The High-Tech Investigative Unit of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) of the Criminal Division provided significant assistance.
Trial Attorneys Lauren S. Kupersmith and Kyle P. Reynolds of CEOS and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Devon Myers and Kim Meyer of the Central District of California are prosecuting the case.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to address the epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse, launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by the U.S. Attorney’s Offices and the CEO, Project Safe Childhood brings together federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children through the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about the Safe Childhood Project, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.