New Orleans, Louisiana - An Abita Springs man who pleaded guilty last year to operating a worldwide child pornography network that was the largest ever discovered in the history of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was sentenced Thursday to 21 years in federal prison for operating a child exploitation enterprise. The sentencing follows an investigation by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and multiple U.S. Attorneys across the country.
According to court documents, Jonathan Johnson, 28, admitted in his guilty plea that he created multiple fake female personas on popular social networks and used them to target children for exploitation by coercing them into producing sexually explicit material. Johnson also coached other child predators in his inner circle how to do the same. Two underground websites administered by Johnson operated as a hidden service board on the Tor network that operated from about June 2012 until Johnson’s arrest in June 2013, at which time the site contained more than 2,000 videos and had more than 27,000 members worldwide. Tor is an Internet network that enables online anonymity by directing Internet traffic through thousands of relays to conceal a user’s location.
The two websites operated by Johnson shared webcam-captured videos of mostly juvenile boys enticed by the operators of the site to produce sexually explicit material. So far, investigators have identified more than 250 minor victims in 39 states and five foreign countries. All victims have been contacted by law enforcement and U.S. victims have been offered support services from HSI victim assistance specialists.
Dubbed “Operation Roundtable,” the case against Johnson has thus far resulted in ten additional individuals being criminally charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Orleans. To date, all ten defendants have pleaded guilty to crimes involving the sexual exploitation of children.
In addition to his prison term, U.S. District Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown ordered Johnson to serve an additional ten years of supervised release upon his release from custody and he will be required to register as a sex offender.
“Today’s sentencing represents a significant step in our continued efforts to dismantle a criminal enterprise that is responsible for the sexual victimization of our nation’s young people,” said United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana Kenneth A. Polite. “Once again, I commend HSI and the Postal Service for being dedicated partners in Operation Roundtable. Together, we are committed to utilizing our collective resources to bring justice to both the victims and the perpetrators of these crimes.”
“Postal Inspectors have fought the scourge of child pornography since the 1900s, and we will never hesitate to pursue those who use the mail to exploit children,” said Acting Inspector in Charge Daniel Brubaker. “We investigate a wide variety of crimes in our mission to protect the integrity of the U.S. Mail, but sexual exploitation of children is particularly heinous. When these predators use a combination of mail and the Internet to exploit our children we will ensure no aspect of their crimes escape justice.”
This investigation was conducted under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 12,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2014, more than 2,000 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.