ALEXANDRIA, Virginia — A Thomasville man is charged in an international child exploitation conspiracy case.
James Edwin Hancock, 44, of Thomasville, is one of seven defendants who allegedly operated two websites designed to trick children between ages eight and 14 into engaging in sexual activity on Internet web cams.
Hancock and others were indicted March 19 by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy to produce child pornography and conspiracy to distribute child pornography.
Other defendants are Anthony R. Evans, 53, of Grahamstown, South Africa; William J. Morgan, 35, of Essex, New York; Milton Smith Jr., 33, of Lorton, Virginia.; Christopher McNevin, 36, of Carlisle, Ohio; Brian Hendricks, 41, of Mt. Juliet, Tennessee.; and Carl Zwengel, 50, of Princeton, Illinois.
According to the indictment released by the Eastern District of Virginia U.S. attorney’s Office, defendants allegedly created false profiles on social networking sites such as YouTube and Chateen pretending to be young teenagers.
Using the profiles, defendants chatted with children between eight and 14 years of age and directed them to one of the websites run by the conspiracy.
Once a child victim was on conspirators’ websites, members of the conspiracy, still pretending to be young teenagers, allegedly convinced and encouraged children to engage in sexually explicit activity on their own web cameras, and conspirators recorded the footage. Pornographic videos of the children were allegedly distributed to members of the conspiracy.
Law enforcement agencies have disabled both websites.
A press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office said “the defendants face a minimum mandatory sentence of 15 years in custody and up to a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison if convicted. The indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime,” and emphasized, “every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.”
Hancock is to appear at the federal courthouse in the Eastern District of Virginia on Friday. As part of conditions of release, he will be restricted to his residence daily from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., his computer will be monitored by the U.S. probation office, and he is to have no contact with minors other than his daughter.
Dana J. Boente, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia and Alan Nanavaty, acting section chief of the Violent Crimes Against Children Section of the FBI, made the announcement after a grand jury returned the indictment against the defendants.
The case was investigated by the Violent Crimes Against Children Section of the FBI, with assistance from the South African Police.
Assistant U.S. attorneys Alex Nguyen and Matt Gardner and trial attorney Lauren Britsch with the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the U.S. Department of Justice are prosecuting the case.