Texas Man Pleads Guilty in International Child Exploitation Enterprise Case

2008-08-13 16:23:00

    WASHINGTON and PENSACOLA, Fla., Aug. 13 /EMWNews/ -- Erik

Raymond Wayerski, 46, of Leander, Texas, pleaded guilty today to charges

related to his involvement in a vast global child pornography trafficking

enterprise, Acting Assistant Attorney General Matthew Friedrich of the

Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of

Florida Thomas F. Kirwin and FBI Executive Assistant Director J. Stephen

Tidwell announced.



    Wayerski was one of 14 alleged members of the enterprise who were

charged in a 40-count superseding indictment on March 19, 2008. Wayerski

has pleaded guilty to six counts relating to his criminal activities as a

member of the group, including: engaging in a child exploitation

enterprise; conspiracy to advertise, transport, ship, receive and possess

child pornography; advertising child pornography; transporting child

pornography; receiving child pornography; and obstruction of justice. The

charges were brought under the Child Exploitation Enterprise statute,

passed in July 2006 as part of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety

Act.



    According to plea documents, Wayerski admitted to participating in a

highly-sophisticated and well-organized criminal enterprise whose purpose

was to proliferate child sex abuse images to its membership during a two

year period. According to Wayerski's guilty plea, members of the illegal

organization utilized Internet newsgroups -- large file-sharing networks

where text, software, pictures and videos can be traded and shared -- to

traffic in illegal images and videos depicting prepubescent children,

including toddlers, engaged in various sexual and sadistic acts. As alleged

in the indictment, group members utilized sophisticated encryption methods

to avoid detection and traded more than 400,000 images and videos of child

sexual abuse before being dismantled by law enforcement. The charges were

developed after law enforcement infiltrated the group in August 2006.



    Wayerski faces a minimum prison sentence of 20 years and a maximum of

life in prison, in addition to statutory fines. He will be sentenced

following the trial of the remaining defendants in 2009.



    In addition to Wayerski, three other members of the enterprise have

pleaded guilty in this case to date. Ruble Keys, 55, of Medford, Ore.,

pleaded guilty on March 19, 2008, to four charges related to his role in

the enterprise. Warren Weber, 56, of Boise, Idaho, pleaded guilty to five

related charges on April 17, 2008, and Stepan Bondarenko, 38, of

Philadelphia pleaded guilty to four related crimes on April 28, 2008. Trial

for the remaining defendants is scheduled to begin Jan. 5, 2009, in

Pensacola, Fla., before Senior U.S. District Judge Lacey A. Collier. The

remaining defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty

in a court of law.



    The case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide

initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse.

Led by the U.S. Attorneys' Offices, Project Safe Childhood marshals

federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and

prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as

identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe

Childhood, please visit http://www.projectsafechildhood.gov/.



    The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney David Goldberg

of the Northern District of Florida and Trial Attorney LisaMarie Freitas of

the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section. The case

is being investigated by the FBI and the Queensland, Australia, Police

Service, with the assistance of the Bundeskriminalamt (BKA) Child

Pornography Unit in Germany, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection

Centre in the United Kingdom and the Toronto Police Department in Canada.





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