Three men involved in an international online child pornography ring responsible for producing and sharing thousands of images and videos of child pornography were sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Max O. Cogburn, Jr., announced R. Andrew Murray, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.
Gregory L. Wiest, Acting Special Agent in Charge of ICE/Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Georgia and the Carolinas and Sheriff Van Duncan of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office join U.S. Attorney Murray in making today’s announcement.
Dane William Anderson, 32, of Candler, N.C., was sentenced to 20 years in prison; Samuel Heineman, IV, 54, of Marietta, Pennsylvania, previously residing in Berlin, Germany, was sentenced to 21 years in prison; and Mark Christopher Klein, 38, of Hugo, Minnesota, was sentenced to 16 years in prison. All three defendants were also ordered to serve a lifetime of supervised release and to register as sex offenders after they are released from prison.
“The three men sentenced today were part of a sinister network of online child predators, responsible for producing and amassing child pornography on a scale rarely seen. It took law enforcement nearly a year to shift through and analyze Anderson’s massive collection of disturbing images and videos,” said U.S. Attorney Murray. “While this sentence will never repair the trauma suffered by the victims in this case, it does, hopefully, send a message of deterrence to other would-be offenders.”
“This was a heinous child predator conspiracy, crossing international and state borders,” said acting HSI Special Agent Wiest. “Our deepest concern is for the victims of these horrible crimes and we hope today’s sentencing can help them continue on the path of recovery.”
According to court documents and other court records, from 2002 through 2015, the three men were members of a child pornography ring referred to as the “Rippernet,” that produced child pornography through “capping.” Capping is a sophisticated method of producing child pornography by tricking victims, in this case teenage boys, into performing sexually explicit acts in front of webcams, and capturing the video to create new child pornography. Court records show that the defendants induced their young victims by creating false online personas of adolescent girls, specifically developed to be sexually explicit and enticing.
Court records show that law enforcement identified Anderson as an individual responsible for producing images and videos of child pornography, which he traded with others via a peer-to-peer file trading software. According to court records, a forensic analysis of devices seized from Anderson’s home revealed that the defendant possessed more than 17,000 videos and 10,000 images of files depicting the abuse of children. Court records also show that Anderson was the “archivist” of the ring, responsible for collecting and organizing the child pornography in files, and distributing the images and videos to his capper associates.
Court records show that Anderson learned the capping method from Heineman, who was the most prolific producer of child pornography using the capping method. According to court records, Heineman taught Anderson “the art of capping.” In turn, Anderson taught the method to other group members, including Klein. Court records indicate that the combined number of known production victims among the three defendants is over 2,290.
Anderson pleaded guilty to one count of production and one count of possession of child pornography. Heineman and Klein each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to sexually exploit a child. All three defendants are currently in the custody of the United States Marshal pending their designation to a federal Bureau of Prisons facility. All federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole.
In making today’s announcement U.S. Attorney Murray thanks HSI for leading the investigation. U.S. Attorney Murray also thanks the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office for their assistance in this case. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville prosecuted the case.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in 2006 by the Department of Justice, aimed at combating the growing online sexual exploitation of children. By combining resources, federal, state and local agencies are better able to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue those victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov