A 33-year old Indiana man has been sentenced to 50 years in prison for producing child pornography and distributing it via Facebook, according to the Department of Justice.
Lorenzo Johnson, a registered sex offender from Hammond, Indiana, received his sentence on Friday after being convicted in August of possessing a gun as a felon, distributing child pornography, and three counts of conspiring to produce child pornography.
Using Facebook, he found women he believed to be struggling economically and then offered to pay them to take pornographic images of children.
“As the jury unanimously found, Lorenzo Johnson repeatedly persuaded vulnerable women to sexually exploit infants and young children,” Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite Jr. for the DOJ’s Criminal Division said. “Today’s sentence sends a strong message that offenders who target vulnerable members of our society, and especially children, will be brought to justice.”
Johnson apparently offered “women money to take sexually explicit photos of infants and prepubescent children whom they knew, and successfully persuaded three such women, who were subsequently charged with child pornography offenses, to send him photos depicting the sexual abuse of infants and prepubescent children,” according to authorities.
At least one of the women involved in Johnson’s scheme has pleaded guilty, with at least one other expected to as well. Another woman reportedly died during the investigation meaning that she could not be prosecuted.
According to the FBI, he hoped to use the images to blackmail other Facebook users. In one instance, he told a woman that he wanted to “hold something over her head” Facebook records revealed during the trial show Johnson threatening to “expose” his co-conspirators if they did not produce child sexual abuse material for him to distribute.
Northern District of Indiana attorney Clifford D. Johnson called Johnson’s actions “despicable criminal behavior.”
“Manipulating vulnerable women into producing pornographic images of voiceless children is despicable criminal behavior,” he said.
The investigation into Johnson stemmed from the Project Safe Childhood initiative and involved FBI agents, the Cook County State Attorney’s office, and the Cook County’s sheriff department.
“This sentence demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to identifying sexual predators and investigating these type of cases with a sense of urgency to ensure those who victimize our most vulnerable members of society pay the price with time in prison,” Special Agent Gregory Nelsen said.
As part of the same child protection initiative, a Kentucky man was sentenced to 375 months in prison for distributing child pornography on Tuesday. According to the attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, 36-year old Oscar Joshua Calhoun also used “online platforms” to exchange child pornography involving children under 12 years old.
In a similar case, William Dean Blankenship of Virginia was sentenced to 50 years in prison for producing child pornography and illegally having a firearm as a felon.
“Now, Mr. Blankenship will begin to pay for the horrific atrocities he committed,” said Special Agent Ray Villanueva from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Washington, D.C. “This sentencing serves as another example to anyone who seeks to victimize our children, that we will work tirelessly to bring them to justice.”