Mar 15, 2023
Federal officials announced a series of child sexual exploitation cases Tuesday, including four complaints filed against Southern California men accused of “horrific” crimes, according to a report from NBC Los Angeles.
The cases, recently filed in the Central District of California, allege the victimization of minors – including by convicted sex offenders – and charge a range of crimes that include:
The federal child sex abuse cases announced yesterday are part of Project Safe Childhood, the Justice Department’s “longstanding initiative to combat the ongoing epidemic of child exploitation crimes.”
“Protecting our children from sexual exploitation is some of the most important work my office does,” United States Attorney Martin Estrada said during Tuesday’s announcement. “For years, we have vigorously prosecuted child sexual predators, and we have only increased those efforts in recent times. To those who would seek to victimize our youth, let me be clear: We will use every tool in our arsenal to bring you to justice and thereby stop you from causing further irreparable harm to others.”
“The various cases being announced today are a reminder of the constant threat of sexual extortion minors face, as well as the persistent demand for child pornography,” FBI Assistant Director in Charge Donald Alway, who runs the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, said. “Whether an offender sexually abuses a child in person or online, or continues to exploit children by producing or sharing images of sexual abuse, the FBI and our partners will continue to seek justice for innocent victims by holding offenders accountable.”
“[Homeland Security Investigations] HSI Los Angeles is committed to removing sexual predators from our streets and working aggressively to hold them accountable for their heinous actions,” added HSI Acting Special Agent in Charge, Eddy Wang.
In total, nine defendants were charged with child exploitation offenses. The four Southern California suspects – reportedly from Long Beach, Hollywood, Van Nuys, and Santa Clarita – were listed in the U.S. Attorney’s Office press release:
The criminal complaint charges Ivan Lozano, a 36-year-old resident of Long Beach, with enticing a minor victim to commit sexual acts and possession of child pornography. Over the course of nearly two years, starting when the victim was 14, Lozano allegedly encouraged and enticed a girl a residing in Tanzania to repeatedly send him videos and photos of a sexual nature using the WhatsApp social media application. In October 2021, according to the complaint affidavit, Lozano traveled to Tanzania for the purpose of having sex with the girl, which he recorded on video. Lozano is currently a fugitive being sought by the FBI, which conducted the investigation in this matter together with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Assistant United States Attorney Bruce Riordan from the Violent and Organized Crime Section is prosecuting case.
Dustan David Sheehan, 45, of Hollywood, surrendered last week after being named in a criminal complaint that accuses him of distributing child pornography and possession of and access with intent to view child pornography. In an August 2020 conversation with an undercover agent on the Kik internet messaging platform, Sheehan discussed his desire to meet and sexually abuse the undercover’s fictitious 9-year-old daughter, according to the complaint affidavit. Sheehan allegedly also shared sexually explicit images with the undercover agent. During a subsequent search of Sheehan’s residence, investigators FBI identified approximately 2,919 CSAM images and 21 CSAM videos on Sheehan’s digital devices, the affidavit states. During his initial appearance Friday afternoon, Sheehan was released on a $100,000 bond and was ordered to reside at a residential rehabilitation center. The FBI is investigating this matter. Assistant United States Attorneys Jeffrey Chemerinsky and Hava Mirell from the Violent and Organized Crime Section are prosecuting this case.
Nathan Kicyla, 39, of Van Nuys, was accused of coercing a 10-year-old girl he encountered online to engage in sexually explicit conduct. An indictment charges Kicyla with sexual exploitation of a child for the purpose of producing a sexually explicit visual depiction, enticement of a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity, and commission of a felony offense involving a minor. If convicted, he would face a mandatory minimum of 35 years in federal prison. He is currently in federal custody on a supervised release violation stemming from a 2007 conviction of sexually exploitation of minors in the Eastern District of California.
Ian Nathanial Johnson, 36, of Santa Clarita, was arrested last week after prosecutors filed a criminal complaint charging him with distribution and possession of child pornography. The investigation into Johnson was launched after the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received information that Johnson had uploaded child pornography to a Dropbox account, prosecutors said. During a search, agents seized Johnson’s digital devices and discovered over 200 images of child pornography and chats on Telegram, several of which included images of prepubescent children and children in bondage, the affidavit states. Johnson is scheduled to make his initial appearance on Wednesday in Los Angeles federal court.
According to the government’s announcement, the California child exploitation cases are being prosecuted as part of the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Childhood program, which “combats the sexual exploitation of children through impactful federal criminal investigations and prosecutions.”
“The goal of the program is to provide children with a childhood safe from sexual exploitation and with resources if they become victims,” the DOJ said.
Law enforcement authorities are said to be engaging in public outreach efforts designed to prevent children from being victimized in the first place:
“Those warnings include typical ‘red flags’ that include requests for ‘nudes,’ to talk about sex, to meet in real life, or for money,” the DOJ indicated.
“When any problems arise, teens are encouraged to get help from a trusted adult, to block the other person from contacting them, and to get help removing any unwanted images from the internet.”
Authorities suggest that victims of child sexual exploitation visit their website for further information, including details about reporting, education, services, and how to submit a request to remove child exploitation images posted online.
Various reports have confirmed a sudden spike in online child sexual abuse material (CSAM) since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, we published a blog which included confirmation that the U.S. hosts more online child sexual abuse content than any other nation in the world (accounting for 30% of the global total of CSAM URLs at the end of March 2022).
Additionally, research provided by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) confirmed the following child sex abuse material statistics:
A study of convicted internet sexual offenders published in the Psychology, Crime & Law journal reported that individuals spent more than eleven hours per week viewing pornographic images of children online.
Another study compared two groups of sex offenders:
The results confirmed that a majority of those who were convicted of only internet-based offenses also had committed real life sexual abuse of children. Additionally, the study found that real life offenders had committed an average of over 13 different child sex abuse offenses, regardless of whether or not they had formally been convicted of any real life incident.
Another study examined the beliefs of three groups:
While all groups were more likely to minimize the gravity of their offenses, the internet-only group was more likely than the contact-only group to think that children could make their own decisions on sexual involvement, and to believe that some children actually wanted (even “eagerly wanted,” according to the study) to engage in sexual activity with an adult.
A separate study published in the Journal of Sex Research found that “significant proportions” of various types of rapists and molesters had used hard-core pornography during their adolescence.
The statistical breakdown was as follows:
Current use of hard-core pornography was even greater for those groups:
About a third of sex offenders reported using pornography as a deliberate stimulus to commit their sexual offenses, according to the study published in the Journal of Sex Research.
Dordulian Law Group (DLG) is a leading California-based sexual abuse firm representing survivors across the United States. Led by Sam Dordulian, a former sex crimes prosecutor and Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County, DLG offers survivors a unique type of legal representation which includes a four-tiered team of professionals known as the SAJE Team (Sexual Abuse Justice Experts).
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