PHILADELPHIA – First Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced today that the following sentences were handed down this week for defendants’ participation in a nationwide child exploitation enterprise and child pornography conspiracy occurring over the online communications service Discord: (a) Andrew Dowdle, 47, of Oswego, New York, was sentenced to 16 years’ imprisonment and 15 years of supervised release; (b) Carl Masters, 44, of Lawrence, Kansas, was sentenced to 27 years’ imprisonment and a lifetime of supervised release; and (c) Ric Crossfield, Jr., 24, of Queens, New York, was sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment and 40 years of supervised release. All three defendants will be required to register as sex offenders upon their release from incarceration. All sentences were imposed by United States District Judge Harvey Bartle III.
The case represents the first child exploitation enterprise prosecution ever brought in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
The sentenced defendants and their co-conspirators congregated on Discord, an Internet communications service permitting users to create “servers” (essentially chat rooms with certain advanced features) typically organized around a particular common interest. In the case of the sentenced defendants and their co-conspirators, their common interest was child pornography streamed via web camera or cell phone camera over any of a number of video-streaming platforms (including Omegle, Skype, live.me, Snapchat, Periscope, musical.ly, YouNow and others).
Over various Discord servers, the defendants and the other enterprise members encouraged one another to produce child pornography by communicating over the Internet directly with minors and enticing them to broadcast sexually explicit videos of themselves, and then to share the results of their successful efforts (which they described as “wins”) with other members of the group. The members also provided each other with links to child pornography and technical advice designed to facilitate the viewing and retention of child pornography videos. Hundreds of minor children were victimized by the enterprise, and vast quantities of child pornography were produced.
Each of these sentences followed a previous guilty plea. Dowdle pled guilty to conspiracy to advertise child pornography on April 8, 2019. Masters pled guilty to engaging in a child exploitation enterprise and conspiracy to advertise child pornography on April 25, 2019. Crossfield pled guilty to engaging in a child exploitation enterprise and conspiracy to advertise child pornography on April 17, 2019.
“The harm caused by any child exploitation is devastating and long-lasting,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Williams. “In this case, the impact can be multiplied by the hundreds of victims these defendants and others manipulated for their own benefit. There can be no doubt that children across the nation, and the world, are safer now that these defendants are off the street. We stand ready with our federal and local partners to identify and prosecute all those who would prey upon minor children.”
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Seth M. Schlessinger and Trial Attorneys Lauren E. Britsch and Kaylynn N. Foulon of the Department of Justice’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section.