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Cooperation Among Federal, State, and Local Law Enforcement Results in Crackdown on Sex Offenders Throughout the Eastern District of North Carolina

U.S. Attorney’s Office February 15, 2013
  • Eastern District of North Carolina (919) 856-4530

RALEIGH—United States Attorney Thomas G. Walker announced a series of successful prosecutions of sex offenders in the Eastern District of North Carolina. The prosecutions were handled by law enforcement throughout the district and include a wide variety of crimes and offenders, including producers of child pornography and repeat offenders.

“I am proud to announce this series of sentencing and guilty pleas,” said Walker, “not only because they help demonstrate that the safety of the children in our district is among our highest priorities, but because they demonstrate the extraordinary results that can be obtained only by the coordination and cooperation of agencies and prosecutors at every level of law enforcement.”

The cases included the sentencing of Brian Joseph Vancourt of Havelock, North Carolina, who on February 13, 2013, was sentenced by Senior District Court Judge Malcolm J. Howard to 192 months’ imprisonment and lifetime supervised release for receipt of child pornography. Vancourt, who had previously been subject to a military court martial for child pornography crimes, was detected by two different law enforcement agencies—the Colorado Springs, Colorado Police Department and the FBI—less than one year after his release from the brig for his prior offense, using a peer to peer network to acquire child pornography and to discuss in explicit terms his desire to engage in sex acts with a 9-year-old child. These leads led to a search conducted at Vancourt’s Havelock-area residence by the FBI, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, and the Havelock Police Department, which led to the discovery of a vast collection of child pornography, including tens of thousands of images and videos depicting the sexual abuse of children. The Craven County District Attorney’s office also participated in the prosecution.

That same day, Judge Howard sentenced Brandon Stefan Lee of Cumberland County to a term of 151 months’ imprisonment and lifetime supervised release for receipt of child pornography. Lee was discovered using peer-to-peer technology to traffic in child pornography from his residence on Fort Bragg and had amassed a library of over 12,000 images of children being sexually exploited. Investigation was led by the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI.

Judge Howard also sentenced Shane Michael Green, 39, a former civilian firefighter on Camp Lejeune, to 108 months’ imprisonment and 20 years’ supervised release for downloading child pornography on a private network on the base. Law enforcement officials traced a user of peer-to-peer technology to that network and identified Green as the responsible party. Green had amassed a collection of child pornography totaling over 1,700 images and over 30 videos depicting child sexual abuse. The case was investigated by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.

Elsewhere, Nathaniel Beltran Grinstead, of Wake County, pled guilty on Tuesday to one count of manufacturing child pornography. Grinstead produced child pornography involving at least two children in multiple North Carolina locations and faces not less than 15 and up to 30 years’ imprisonment. He is scheduled for sentencing before District Court Judge Louise Flanagan in New Bern on June 5, 2013. The investigation in his case was an effort coordinated by the Morrisville Police Department and the FBI. The office of the Wake County District Attorney also participated in the prosecution.

Also on Tuesday, February 12, 2013, William Richard Raper, a/k/a William Richard Roper, a registered sex offender, pled guilty to one count of receipt of child pornography. Raper, a resident of Craven County, was caught by a probation officer looking at child pornography on a laptop computer. Subsequent forensics confirmed that Raper had used the Internet to seek out child sex abuse images. Due to his prior sex offense, Raper faces not less than 15 nor more than 40 years’ imprisonment. Sentencing is scheduled before Judge Flanagan on June 5, 2013. The New Bern Police Department, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, and the FBI cooperated in the investigative effort, while the Craven County District Attorney’s office assisted in the prosecution.

These cases follow the earlier guilty plea of Mitchell Byron Hales, who pled guilty January 29, 2013, to one count of distributing child pornography. The plea was entered before Senior United States District Court Judge James C. Fox in Wilmington, North Carolina. Hales’ criminal conduct was also detected by investigators working undercover to identify and locate individuals engaged in the use of peer to peer technologies to trade in child pornographic material. He faces between five and 20 years’ imprisonment on the charge at the time of his sentencing, presently scheduled for the May 13, 2013 term of court. The case was investigated by the FBI and the Raleigh Police Department, and the Wake County District Attorney’s office collaborated on the prosecution.

Recent prosecutions also include sex offenders who have refused to comply with their sex offender registration obligations. On February 8, 2013, Chief United States District Court Judge James C. Dever sentenced Fred Lawrence Davis to 30 month’s imprisonment and lifetime supervised release for failing to maintain his sex offender registration obligations as required by law. After his release from a New York prison in 1996 after completing his sentence for attempted first-degree rape, Davis failed to register in any of the states he subsequently lived in, including New York, Arizona, and North Carolina, notwithstanding having been advised on multiple occasions of his registration obligations. Investigation of this case was led by the United States Marshals Service.

“We are grateful for the tremendous work and cooperation demonstrated by the results of these cases,” said Walker. “Whether you are a producer, distributor, or collector of images and videos of children being sexually abused, you should understand that this kind of conduct is unjustifiable in any way. We will not tolerate behavior that treats children as objects for sexual amusement. The difficult reality is that there are many more of these cases to come. As recent weeks demonstrate, we have a coalition dedicated to making sure that these cases are treated as the priorities they are.”

“These predators victimized a child every time they shared or downloaded a picture or video of child pornography. The FBI will remain vigilant and continue our active role as part of the national strategy to track down sexual predators to protect our children,” said Roger A. Coe, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Charlotte Division of the FBI.

All of these cases were brought as part of the Project Safe Childhood initiative, a national program aimed at ensuring that criminals exploiting children are effectively prosecuted by making full use of all available law enforcement resources at every level. For more information about this important national project, Project Safe Childhood, go to www.justice.gov/psc.

The cases were prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Jay Exum and Ethan Ontjes and Special Assistant United States Attorneys Mark J. Griffith and David A. Coleman.