Seven separate cases involving men committing acts of or distributing pedophilia were announced by the Department of Justice (DOJ) all on the same day.
The cases, posted on July 23, encompass men from different states across the country with crimes ranging from engaging in an illegal illicit act with a minor, distributing or being in possession of child pornography, to producing child pornography. At least 5 additional cases were announced on July 24.
The sheer number of arrests just this year (nearly 37 pages of cases as of July 24) highlight that child exploitation and human trafficking, in general, has continued to ramp up in the United States.
One of the more heinous cases out of the group was of James Daniel Arbaugh, from Virginia. The 40-year-old was sentenced to 276 months behind bars, followed by a life term of supervised release after he traveled from the United States to Haiti in order to engage in sexual conduct with a minor back in 2016.
“James Arbaugh was a wolf in sheep’s clothing: he posed as a selfless missionary when in reality he was exploiting his position to prey on and sexually abuse vulnerable children in one of the most impoverished areas of the world,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski in a statement.
The barrage of arrests was made as part of Project Safe Childhood (PSC), a nationwide initiative launched by the DOJ in 2006 to fight the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. A quick browse of the department’s website reveals that nearly every day there is an arrest, sentencing, or indictment. Just days ago on July 20, a total of 10 cases were announced nationwide.
“PSC prosecutions by United States Attorneys’ Offices have increased each year since the launch of the initiative,” the website said.
Another case announced on July 23, involved Saul Aguilar, a Lexington man who was sentenced to 50 years in federal prison for using two minors to produce sexually explicit images, later transporting them through Dropbox. The 20-year-old man must serve 85 percent of his federal prison sentence.
According to a 2016 DOJ report (pdf) delivered to Congress (the latest comprehensive data), there were 3,964 cases filed and 4,300 defendant cases filed by PSC in 2011. In 2o15, the number increased to 4,211 cases and 4,458 defendants filed. Since the project’s inception, the DOJ said they have identified thousands of children depicted in pornography.
Charles Bertsch, 59, from Maryland, pleaded guilty to the distribution of child pornography on July 23. A forensic examination of his electronic devices seized pursuant to a search warrant revealed over “100,000 image files and over 2,000 video files of child pornography.”
Bertch must also register as a sex offender under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). He faces a minimum mandatory sentence of five years in prison and a maximum of 20 years in prison.
In 2015, the most common crimes reported by PSC were child pornography-related offenses, including the transportation, receipt, distribution, sale, possession, and accesses with intent to view. The second most common crime was sexual exploitation of children for the purpose of production/live streaming of child pornography, and advertising, the 2016 DOJ report revealed.
On case involved 46-year-old Christopher Robert Woods, from Pittsburgh, who pleaded guilty to a charge of possessing material depicting the sexual exploitation of a minor. Between the periods of November 2014 and January 2015, Woods had sexually explicit images in computer files which contained minors—some younger than 12 years old.
Woods could face a total of more than 20 years in prison, a fine not more than $250,000, or both.
In April this year, Backpage.com, the largest human-trafficking portal in the United States was shut down by the FBI. It comes after President Donald Trump signed into law the same month a bill that stopped the shielding of website operators from state criminal charges or civil liability if they facilitate sex ads or prostitution.
Jordan Combs, 29, was sentenced to 30 years behind bars for inducing minors to produce sexually explicit images. The Nicholasville man was convicted in March this year on 10 counts of receipt of sexually explicit images in interstate commerce, four counts of producing such images, five counts of distributing such images, and one count of possession of such images.
In a similar case, Daniel Arthur Hill, 30, was sentenced to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of production of child pornography last year. Hill, from Delaware, must serve 300 months in prison.
The DOJ did not immediately respond to a request for more updated statistics.
In the past week, a number of high-profile Hollywood figures including Dan Harmon, the creator of the NBC sitcom “Community,” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn, were coiled in scandals involving old posts that made light of child abuse, rape, and pedophilia. In the wake of the scandals, Harmon deleted his Twitter account and Gunn was fired from Disney.