Jury convicts NW Indiana man for using Facebook to pay women for explicit images of infants and young children

Crime

WASHINGTON (WANE) – A federal jury convicted an Indiana man Monday for conspiring with multiple women to send him sexually explicit pictures of infants and young children, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announced.

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Lorenzo Johnson, 33, of Hammond, used a fake Facebook account to identify women with access to children who were experiencing financial difficulties. The DOJ said Johnson, a registered sex offender, offered those women money to take sexually explicit photos of minor children.

Johnson persuaded three co-conspirators to send him photos depicting the sexual abuse of infants and young children whom the co-conspirators knew, court documents said. Johnson gave an interview to FBI agents stating that he had solicited the production of child pornography from other Facebook users as a means of blackmail.

Johnson’s co-conspirators have been indicted for conspiring to produce child pornography, the DOJ said.

“This verdict sends a strong message that people who sexually abuse young and helpless children — and those who memorialize and disseminate that abuse — will be held accountable,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The Department of Justice is committed to utilizing its resources to track down these offenders and rescue victims of pernicious sexual exploitation.”

Child sexual abuse and exploitation is one of the FBI’s top investigative priorities and this conviction demonstrates our commitment to stopping these unthinkable offenses,” said Assistant Director Calvin Shivers of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “The FBI will use every resource in its power to fully investigate and bring to justice those that prey on the most vulnerable of victims. As a result of the tireless work and close coordination with our state and local law enforcement partners, Johnson will be held accountable for his actions and will no longer be a threat to our community.” 

The DOJ said Johnson was convicted of three counts of conspiracy to produce child pornography, one count of distribution of child pornography, and one charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

He is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 17, and faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years and a maximum penalty of 180 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Johnson was previously convicted in 2009 in Illinois for aggravated sexual abuse involving a minor.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse, launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and CEOS, 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 to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc

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