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May 15, 2015

Three Defendants Sentenced in Conspiracy to Advertise Child Pornography in Connection with Web-Based Bulletin Board

Three defendants were sentenced for their roles in an international child pornography web-based bulletin board that was targeted by state and federal investigators and prosecutors participating in Operation Moon Runner.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Michael W. Cotter of the District of Montana and Special Agent in Charge Mary Frances Rook of the FBI’s Salt Lake City Division made the announcement.

On May 14, 2015, Daniel Brown, 26, of Taylor, South Carolina, was sentenced to 180 months in prison after a jury convicted him of conspiracy to advertise child pornography. On May 15, 2015, John Merchberger, 48, of Dayton, Maine, was sentenced to 220 months in prison and Marc Edoria, 24, of Elk Grove, California, was sentenced to 180 months in prison. Chief U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen of the District of Montana imposed the sentence.

According to court documents, the board was created in September 2011 and specialized in the advertisement, distribution and receipt of child pornography. The board was broken-up into subforums where members were required to post images that corresponded to specific child pornography studios or topics such as webcams or candid photographs. The rules of the board required members to post images of minor females once every certain number of weeks. Failure to post images within the required time period resulted in suspension from the board. The board permitted members to leave comments and to request more images of child pornography from board members.

According to admissions made in connection to their guilty pleas, Merchberger assisted in running the board at various times, while Edoria was an advanced member of the board. According to evidence presented at trial, Brown was also an advanced member of the board. All three defendants posted notices and advertisements of child pornography on the board, along with images of children being sexually abused.

The investigation, referred to as Operation Moon Runner, is an ongoing cooperative effort between the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section; FBI; Montana Department of Criminal Investigations; Helena, Montana, Police Department; Polson, Montana, Police Department; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, Montana Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the Northumbria Police Department in the United Kingdom.

Trial Attorney Maureen C. Cain of the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Cyndee L. Peterson of the District of Montana prosecuted the case.

This case was initiated under the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Childhood initiative which was launched in 2006 to combat the proliferation of technology-facilitated crimes involving the sexual exploitation of children. Through a network of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and advocacy organizations, Project Safe Childhood attempts to protect children by investigating and prosecuting offenders involved in child sexual exploitation. It is implemented through partnerships including the Montana Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force. The ICAC Task Force Program was created to assist state and local law enforcement agencies by enhancing their investigative response to technology facilitated crimes against children.

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