Two Long Beach men were among 11 Southland people arrested Tuesday morning for allegedly using file-sharing programs to receive, and in some cases distribute, child pornography, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The arrests were the results of eight indictments filed in U.S. District Court and three cases filed by local prosecutors. The arrests also concluded a three-year investigation as part of Operation “Wide Net,” conducted by the Los Angeles Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force.
ICAC includes special agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. They work in conjunction with local law enforcement partners—including the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. The Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) and the California Highway Patrol (CHP) also assisted in Tuesday’s operation.
Officials said over the past three years Operation Wide Net has resulted in more than 80 defendants being prosecuted for child pornography offenses and the execution of more than 100 federal and state search warrants in the Los Angeles area.
Those arrested Tuesday include Chino resident Luis Gutierrez, 49, who was previously indicted on two counts of receiving child pornography and one count of possessing child pornography obtained through the Ares file-sharing program. Gutierrez was an engineer with the Los Angeles City Fire Department at the time of the alleged offenses in 2013, and he allegedly used Internet connections at three different fire stations to download the child pornography found on his computer, a release stated.
Cerritos man Gerald Patrick Beaver, 53, was arrested based on law enforcement operations in New Zealand and Oklahoma, where undercover officers allegedly saw him offering to distribute child pornography over the Internet using the Gigatribe file-sharing program. Beaver was previously indicted and charged with one count of advertising child pornography, two counts of distributing child pornography and one count of possessing child pornogprahy. Authorities allegedly found more than 6,000 images and more than 400 child pornography videos on his computer during a search executed at his home.
“Those who trade in child pornography inflict great harm on the most vulnerable in our society by re-victimizing the children in the existing pornography, as well as by fueling a market that requires new child victims,” stated U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Operation Wide Net and the scores of other child exploitation cases brought every year by my office demonstrate the Department of Justice’s dual commitments to prosecuting these offenders and to preventing the further abuse of children.”
“The children depicted in these images that were illegally shared are victimized time and time again,” stated Jim Struyk, the Acting Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “[Tuesday’s] announcement illustrates the prevalence of this crime and law enforcement actions should send a message that peer-to-peer networks do not shield criminals from prosecution.”
Six other defendants were arrested Tuesday as a result of federal indictments obtained as part of Operation Wide Net, including:
Long Beach resident Steven David Lavinsky, 58, who was charged in a three-count indictment with advertising, distributing and possessing child pornography in a case involving the Gigatribe file-sharing program.
Torrance man Jace Jeanes, 39, is charged with receiving and possessing child pornography that he allegedly obtained using the BitTorrent file-sharing program. He allegedly possessed more than 20,000 images and videos of child pornography on computer equipment found during a search of his residence, officials stated.
Carson resident Kenneth Martin Medellin, 55, was charged with receiving and possessing child pornography using the file-sharing program Limewire.
Upland man Antonio Joseph Garcia II, 41, was charged with four counts of distributing child pornography, one count of receiving child pornography and two counts of possessing child pornography. Garcia also allegedly sent and received child pornography by email, officials stated.
Pasadena resident Michael Brian Perry, 37, was charged with a three-count indictment that accuses him of advertising, distributing and possessing child pornography.
Los Angeles resident Curtis Audun Larssen, 33, was charged with receiving and possessing child pornography using the Ares file-sharing program.
The eight federal defendants arrested Tuesday were expected to be arraigned that afternoon in U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles, the release stated.
“File-sharing software has become increasingly popular with collectors and producers of child pornography because they mistakenly believe the technology shields them and their reprehensible criminal acts from detection,” said Mark Selby, acting special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. “But as today’s arrests make clear, cyberspace affords these predators no refuge from justice. HSI, together with its law enforcement partners, will continue to use every tool and resource at our disposal to pursue those who prey on and wantonly exploit the most vulnerable among us.”
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, in connection with Operation Wide Net, has also charged three defendants in Los Angeles Superior Court with possession of child pornography. The three state court defendants—Long Beach resident Michael Becerra, 30, Compton resident Cristian Carrasco, 23, and Van Nuys resident Andre Desire Loustau, 71—were also taken into custody Tuesday morning.
Prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office recently charged two other defendants as part of Operation Wide Net as well.
Defendant James Breton Butler, 51, of Sherman Oaks agreed to plead guilty to possessing child pornography, admitting “he possessed several hundred thousand images of child pornography, as well as more than 20,000 videos of child pornography” obtained through the Ares file-sharing program, officials stated. Butler agreed to plead guilty prior to being indicted in a plea agreement filed Monday. He will make his initial appearance in federal court next month.
Defendant David John Gastelum, 53, of Palmdale was arrested March 10 after being named in an indictment charging him with two counts of receiving child pornography and one count of possessing child pornography using the Ares file-sharing program. Gastelum has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to go on trial on August 9, officials stated.