Thomasville man awaiting trial in international pornography case

THOMASVILLE — A Thomasville man charged as part of an international child exploitation conspiracy case is scheduled for a jury trial on Sept. 8 at the Federal Courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia.

James Edwin Hancock, 44, is one of seven defendants who allegedly operated two websites designed to trick children between ages eight and 14 into engaging in sexual activity on Internet web cams. He was indicted by a federal grand jury on March 19 on charges of conspiracy to produce child pornography and conspiracy to distribute child pornography.

Brian K. Hendricks of Mount Juliet, Tennessee, and Anthony R. Evans of Grahamstown, South Africa, are also scheduled for a jury trial on Sept. 8.

Two of the other defendants pleaded guilty. William J. Morgan, of Essex, New York, pleaded guilty on June 26. He is scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 18. Carl Zwengel of Princeton, Illinois, pleaded guilty on July 10. He is scheduled for sentencing on Oct. 2.

The remaining two defendants are awaiting plea hearings. Milton Smith, Jr. of Lorton, Virginia, has one scheduled for Aug. 14. Christopher McNevin of Carlisle, Ohio one scheduled for Aug. 21.

The maximum penalties for this offense are: a mandatory minimum term of 15 years and a maximum term of 30 years of imprisonment, a fine of $250,000, full restitution, a special assessment, forfeiture of specific assets (like computers), and a mandatory minimum term of five years and a maximum lifetime term of supervised release. Anyone found guilty must register with the Sex Offender Registration and keep the registration current in each of the jurisdictions where the defendant resides, is an employee or is a student.

According to the indictment by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, the defendants allegedly created false profiles on social networking sites like YouTube and Chateen pretending to be young teenagers. Using these profiles, they chatted with children between 8 and 14 years of age and directed them to one of the websites run by the conspiracy. Once a real child was on the conspirators’ websites, the members of the conspiracy, still pretending to be young teenagers, allegedly convinced and encouraged the children to engage in sexually explicit activity on their own web cameras and the conspirators recorded that footage. The pornographic videos of the children were then allegedly distributed to members of the conspiracy. Law enforcement agencies have disabled both websites.

This case was investigated by the Violent Crimes Against Children Section of the FBI with assistance from the South African Police. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alex Nguyen and Matt Gardner and Trial Attorney Lauren Britsch with the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the U.S. Department of Justice are prosecuting the case.

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