LOS ANGELES (CBS) — An Oxnard man was arrested Tuesday on federal child pornography charges, the latest in an investigation into a pedophile ring that began with the arrest of a recreational soccer coach in Orange County.
Brandon Thurman, 28, of Oxnard, was arrested on charges in a 10-count indictment handed down by a federal grand jury in Santa Ana on March 28, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. Thurman is believed to be part of a loose-knit group of men in at least 14 states suspected of trading sexually explicit images of underage males.
Federal prosecutors say Thurman used the screen name “HappyOne” when communicating and trading child pornography using a chat portal on a website called “Six4kids.” The site stated its purpose was “providing links and ideas for people to get involved to help stop the pain, the suffering, the confusion of the world’s children.”
The site has since been taken down.
Officials say many of the images recovered during the probe were produced by the defendants and that investigators have so far identified and rescued 20 juveniles depicted in those materials.
“Those who trade child pornography over the Internet mistakenly believe the anonymity of the Internet shields them from detection,” said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations Los Angeles. “But as this case clearly shows, cyberspace is not a refuge from justice. In fact, the technology perpetrators use to exchange these illicit materials has given us new ways to track their activities.”
The probe into this group began in 2008, when the Orange County Sheriff’s Department was notified a 13-year-old boy in Arizona was receiving sexually suggestive texts from a person in Lake Forest. Officials say that person was ultimately identified as George Harcourt Bull, 61, a recreational youth coach and former substitute teacher for special needs students, who was ultimately convicted of transporting child pornography and sentenced last year to 14 years in federal prison.
Federal prosecutors say a forensic analysis of Bull’s computer found hundreds of images of child pornography and evidence leading to the indictment of 18 defendants on federal and local charges.
Thurman is scheduled to make his first appearance in federal court in Los Angeles Tuesday afternoon. If convicted on all the charges, the violations carry a potential maximum penalty of 110 years.