Attorney General Andy Beshear today announced that the investigation and testimony by his cyber crimes unit led to the conviction of one of 15 men behind a national child pornography ring.
William Staples, 57, of Harrodsburg, was found guilty in federal court Jan. 25 of conspiracy to advertise child pornography; conspiracy to receive and distribute child pornography; and aiding and abetting the receipt and distribution of child pornography.
The conviction stems from a seven-day trial in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania of two of the remaining defendants who had not entered guilty pleas.
The Jan. 25 sentencing of Staples and the other man charged, 34-year-old Lemon Grove, California student Dylan Heatherly, has not been scheduled, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
According to AG cyber investigator Tom Bell, trial evidence proved that Staples, Heatherly and 13 co-conspirators located in different states created a secure space on a video conferencing website to live-stream pre-recorded child pornography and to minimize any evidence of the pornography on their devices.
The timeframe for these actions was April 11, 2014, through May 11, 2016, Bell said.
Bell said law enforcement working the case uncovered that in one instance the men watched and encouraged the live sexual abuse of a six-year-old child via video conference. Officials immediately rescued the child in Pennsylvania and arrested one of the co-conspirators who was abusing the child, Bell said.
Beshear said Bell’s investigation and testimony in the case is one of many examples of how AG cyber forensic detectives not only support the office’s needs, but the needs of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
“This case is utterly horrifying and without the work of Tom Bell, our cyber crimes unit and the many local, state and federal law enforcement agencies who worked this case, more children could have been sexually abused by this group of men,” Beshear said. “I want to thank Tom and our entire cyber crimes unit for their work to keep children safe in Kentucky, nationally and internationally.”
In November, Beshear’s office announced the arrest of a Louisville man after a three-month investigation began from a tip by Athens, Greece Police, through Interpol, to Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) regarding alleged sexually explicit conversations and images being requested from and sent to a minor overseas by the Louisville resident.
Beshear said that Kentuckians have a moral and legal duty to report any instance of child abuse to local law enforcement or to Kentucky’s Child Abuse hotline at 877-597-2331 or 877-KYSAFE1.