LOS ANGELES–A federal judge convicted a Moreno Valley man July 22 of advertising child pornography in a members-only online chatroom for individuals with a sexual interest in infants and toddlers, following a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigation (HSI).
Angelo Harper Jr., 21, was found guilty of advertising child pornography, a crime that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison. Harper was found guilty by U.S. District Judge Gary Klausner, who presided over a two-day bench trial.
On July 12, Harper pleaded guilty to distributing child pornography and possession of child pornography. On that same day, he waived his right to a jury trial on the remaining advertising charge, which led to this week’s bench trial before Judge Klausner.
The evidence presented at trial showed Harper used the Kik Messenger social media platform to access a chatroom for those with a sexual interest in infants and toddlers. Last year, an HSI special agent entered the chatroom using an undercover Kik account and accessed several postings about child pornography – made by an individual later identified as Harper – which included images depicting child pornography and a link to an explicit video. At one point, Harper wrote: “I have tons of pics and vids of little boys and girls. Pm me for chat and trade of kids under 6 [winking face emoji].”
“Pedophiles continue to develop ways to exploit online technology so they can have a forum to share their deviant interests,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Law enforcement will continue to respond to the increased use of online platforms by vigorously investigating the dark corners of the internet where criminals attempt to hide offenses like the trafficking and promotion of child pornography. Defendants like Harper endanger children by perpetuating a market for their victimization.”
As a result of the investigation, HSI special agents obtained a search warrant for Harper’s residence. During the execution of the warrant in October 2015, investigators seized various digital devices containing child pornography and Harper admitted to using Kik to transmit child pornography.