Canyon Country man arrested in child pornography sweep

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A Canyon Country man was one of eight people taken into custody by members of multi-agency task force involving the FBI and Homeland Security aimed at fighting the production of child pornography.

Justin Schobey, 19, was charged with production, distribution and possession of child pornography, according to a news release issued Friday by US Attorney Nicola T. Hanna.

Schobey allegedly used text messages to coerce a boy in another state to produce child pornography.

Hanna and FBI Assistant Director in Charge Paul D. Delacourt announced Friday a series of child exploitation cases involving the victimization of minors through crimes that include the production of child pornography.

On Thursday, FBI agents arrested two defendants as part of the multi-agency sweep that led to eight defendants being taken into custody over the past 10 days.

Project Safe Childhood

Several of the cases involved agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. These cases are part of an operation dubbed Project Safe Childhood, an ongoing initiative of the Justice Department aimed at combating what they describe as “the growing epidemic of child exploitation crimes.”

“These cases involve acts of depravity against vulnerable young people,” Hanna said, “many of whom will continue to be victimized as photos documenting their abuse spread across the internet.

“These cases are a reminder that child predators cannot hide behind the perceived anonymity of the internet. Those who engage in the child pornography industry – whether they create new images or collect videos – can and will be caught as a result of the concerted efforts of local, state and federal law enforcement authorities.”

The two defendants arrested Thursday by the FBI are:

—Nestor Ramirez, 36, of South Los Angeles, who is charged with production, distribution and possession of child pornography. The production charge relates to images that Ramirez allegedly created, and he allegedly distributed videos over a peer-to-peer network on at least two occasions.

During his arraignment Thursday afternoon, Ramirez pleaded not guilty to the charges in a four-count indictment and was ordered to stand trial on Nov. 27. Ramirez was detained – meaning held without bond – pending trial.

—Victor Manuel Diaz Romo, 53, of Lawndale, who is named in an indictment alleging receipt of child pornography over a peer-to-peer network and five counts of possession of child pornography.

During his arraignment on Thursday, Romo pleaded not guilty and was ordered to stand trial on Nov. 27. Romo was ordered detained pending trial.

FBI sweep

The FBI-led sweep resulted in the arrest of six other defendants – including Schobey,  last week. Each of those defendants has entered not guilty pleas and are facing trials later this year.

Those arrested on September 26 and 27 pursuant to grand jury indictments are:

— Christopher Norman Strinden, 57, of Long Beach, who is charged with three counts of possession of child pornography he obtained from a now-defunct website called Playpen, which was operating on the dark web. Many of the more than 17,000 images in this case allegedly involve minors under the age of 12, including toddlers.

—Kenneth Rudy Smith, 31, of Lawndale, who is charged with one count of possession of child pornography involving victims under the age of 12 that was found during a search of his residence.

—Jorge De Los Santos, 31, of South Los Angeles, who is charged with two counts of receipt of child pornography and one count of possession. De Los Santos allegedly used an online peer-to-peer network to obtain sexually explicit videos depicting young males.

—Fernando Vazquez Garcia, 30, of South Los Angeles, who is charged with receipt of child pornography, as well as possessing videos he allegedly obtained over a file-sharing network.

—Nathan Pham, 27, of Long Beach, who is charged with both receipt and possession of child pornography obtained through a peer-to-peer network. The possession count alleges images involving minors under the age of 12.


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