Montgomery man sentenced in child pornography case involving threats …
MONTGOMERY, Alabama — A Montgomery man was sentenced to serve 35 years in prison for producing child pornography in connection with an online sextortion scheme that spans the globe, U.S. Attorney George L. Beck Jr. released today.
Christopher Patrick Gunn, 31, will serve a minimum of 30 years in federal prison since there is no parole in the federal system.
Over a period of more than two years, Gunn repeatedly used computers, chat rooms and other social media outlets to threaten hundreds of young girls, ages 9 to 16, located throughout the United States and internationally, according to the Department of Justice.
Gunn used those threats to pressure a number of the children and teenagers to produce elicit and pornographic material of themselves.
Gunn pled to charges brought in the Middle District of Alabama as well as the Northern District of Florida, and his plea included two counts of making child pornography, 15 counts of interstate extortion, and seven counts of internet stalking.
The investigation of Gunn started in April 2011 by officers of the Prattville (Alabama) Police Department, after female students at Prattville Junior High School complained that someone using the screen name “Tyler Mielke” had been asking them for sexually explicit pictures over Facebook.
Prattville investigators were able to trace an IP address for the bogus “Tyler Mielke” account back to Gunn’s residence in Montgomery and obtained and executed a state search warrant for his residence on April 14, 2011. The seized computers revealed evidence of the online sextortion plot under the account names “Tyler Mielke” and “Jason Lempke.”
Separate investigations conducted in September 2011 by the Biloxi (Mississippi) Police Department and the Livingston Parish (Louisiana) Sheriff’s Office revealed that someone in the Montgomery area had been committing the very same crimes against young girls in those areas using Facebook accounts with the names “C.J. Harper” and “Dalton Powers.”
Based upon the information obtained from these investigations, the FBI was able to determine that Gunn was the person behind all of the criminal conduct. On March 20, 2012, FBI agents executed a federal search warrant at Gunn’s residence, where they discovered a cell phone and a laptop computer containing images and videos of child pornography.
Among the pictures that Gunn possessed were several of young girls posing in various states of undress and which appear to have been produced by the girls themselves using their cell phones cameras. These images confirmed the information that the FBI’s investigation had already uncovered – that for over a year Gunn had been repeatedly using fake Facebook profiles to obtain nude and partially nude photos and videos from young girls in numerous states, including Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
Gunn used two principal schemes to obtain photos of these young girls in various states of undress.
The first scheme – dubbed “The New Kid Ruse” –began sometime in 2009 and continued until at least August 2011. Under that scheme, Gunn contacted the minor victims by sending them a message over Facebook. He then pretended to be a new kid in town looking for friends. For this purpose, Gunn allegedly established and used a number of different online aliases, including Tyler Mielke, Jason Lempke, CJ Harper, Dalton Powers, Dalton Walthers, Daniel Applegate, and Daniel Rodgers. Once he had gained their trust through chatting, Gunn would ask the girls a series of personal questions, such as their bra size, their sexual history, intimate details about their bodies, and so on. When they had finished divulging that personal information, Gunn would then ask the girls to send him a topless photo. If they refused, he would threaten to e-mail their intimate conversation to the school principal or post it on Facebook for everyone to see.
The second scheme – dubbed “The Justin Bieber Ruse” –began sometime in November 2011, or possibly even earlier, and continued until shortly before Gunn was arrested in March of this year. Under that scheme, Gunn pretending to be the internationally famed pop star, Justin Bieber, contacted the minor victims primarily by using internet-based interactive video chat services, such as Omegle and Skype. Once he had convinced the minor victims that he was, in fact, Justin Bieber, Gunn would allegedly offer them free concert tickets, backstage passes, or some other fan-related benefits if they would agree to send him a webcam transmission or a photo of themselves with their breasts exposed.
Some of the minor victims of Gunn’s two extortion schemes complied to varying degrees with his demands; others did not. For those who complied, Gunn continued sending further demands and more threatening communications. For example, girls who provided a photo of themselves in nothing but underwear were extorted for topless photos. Those who provided topless photos were extorted for pictures of themselves completely naked. And for the minor victims who continued to accede to his demands, Gunn would require them to appear on webcam and perform sexually explicit acts on themselves. If any of his demands were not met, Gunn would threaten to withhold the benefits he had promised the girls and/or to injure the girls’ reputations by publishing their compromising images and videos over the internet.
During the sentencing hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jared Morris described conversations that occurred over the computer between Gunn and his young victims. During those conversations, the victims begged and pleaded for Gunn to allow them to stop performing degrading, humiliating, and sexually explicit acts. Each time the victims wanted to stop, Gunn threatened to send the sexually explicit, nude or degrading pictures to the victim’s friends and family. Mr. Morris further described one incident when the victim begged to stop because the act was hurting her. Gunn would not relent.
At the sentencing hearing, Mr. Morris read a transcript of a conversation between Gunn and a 13 year old victim. In the transcript, the victim told Gunn that she did not want to take her shirt off in front the webcam. Gunn replied that if she doesn’t, he will push send, meaning send the prior pictures to the victim’s friends and family. The victim responded that she is only 13 years old. She further stated that she has “a life, please do not ruin it.” Gunn responded “I am sending it now since u won’t do what I want.” The victim then told Gunn that if he pushes send, she will kill herself. Gunn completely disregarded her cry for help and demanded that she take off her top. The victim complied.
Gunn asked the Court for mercy. To which, Mr. Morris replied that “as a prosecutor, he believed in justice tempered with mercy. However, Gunn showed no mercy to these young victims and Gunn’s sentence should reflect such.” Judge Fuller agreed and gave Gunn the 420 month sentence.
“The actions of these child predators like Gunn will never be erased in the minds of the children that he victimized,” stated U.S. Attorney Beck. “Gunn not only preyed upon children in our community, but in communities across the United States. This long prison sentence serves as a warning to child predators that these crimes will be discovered, will be prosecuted and will be punished severely. I also want to especially thank the Prattville Police Department for initiating this case and for all of their hard work.”
“One of the most important things law enforcement does is protect our children’s innocence and wellbeing from internet predators,” said Stephen Richardson, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Special Agent in Charge, Mobile Division. “The success of this investigation is directly related to our law enforcement partner’s cooperation and commitment to our children.”
This case was investigated by the Montgomery field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, the Prattville (Alabama) Police Department, the Walton County (Florida) Sheriff’s Department, the Biloxi (Mississippi) Police Department, and the Livingston Parish (Louisiana) Sheriff’s Office. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jared H. Morris.
This case is being brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims.
For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit http://www.justice.gov/psc/ For more information about internet safety education, please visit http://www.justice.gov/psc/ and click on the resources tab.