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10 Men Indicted in Investigation of Child Porn on Web

Five of the O.C. residents have agreed to plead guilty in the case, which had been given a push by the Internet findings of Danish police.

May 29, 2003|David Reyes | Times Staff Writer

Ten Orange County men were indicted Wednesday in a federal child pornography case fueled in part by a Danish police investigation dubbed Operation Hamlet.

Three of the men were arrested Wednesday morning, and two others, both apparently hospitalized, are expected to be arrested later this week. Five men had earlier agreed to plead guilty to federal child pornography charges.

Bryce Daniel Klepinger, 27, of Irvine was charged with possession of child pornography as part of a yearlong investigation by Danish national police, who were looking into a group of parents allegedly swapping on the Internet photos of their children being sexually molested.

A watchdog group, Save the Children, reportedly found some of the photos on the Internet two years ago and alerted Danish police. A couple were arrested after police identified the girl in a photo as their 9-year-old daughter.

Klepinger was identified as a member of a group that distributed and collected the photos on the Internet, a spokesman from the U.S. attorney's office said. Federal investigators from the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement seized 75 images of alleged child pornography from two computers at Klepinger's residence during a raid March 21, 2002.

Also indicted was Kevin Hunt, 31, of Stanton, who investigators allege is behind a Web site that features child pornography.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children had received a tip about the site and gave the information to the FBI in Los Angeles, which conducted the investigation.

Others indicted were Donald C. Armbruster Jr., 51, of Modjeska Canyon; Richard Darrel Lewis, 56, of Newport Beach; Robert W. Kennedy, 70, of Anaheim; and Robert Earl Rountree, 23, of Orange.

Armbruster, who was arrested Wednesday, is accused of ordering a child pornography videotape from an undercover law enforcement Web site.

Based on an FBI tip, authorities raided Lewis' home and seized 115 pictures of alleged child pornography that had been downloaded from the Internet.

Kennedy allegedly had 13 compact discs at his home, which had nearly 200 images of child pornography that also had been downloaded from the Internet.

At Rountree's home, authorities allegedly found 32 pictures and 54 movies of child pornography obtained through an Internet program that shares files among users.

Arraignment for Armbruster, Rountree, Hunt and Klepinger is set for Monday.

Arrest warrants against Lewis and Kennedy are expected to be executed after their release from the hospital.

Law enforcement officials said that they have greatly decreased the availability of over-the-counter child pornography in recent years but that the amount of child pornography on the Internet has increased because of the difficulty in tracing buyers and sellers.

The charge of possession of child pornography carries a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

Distribution of child pornography carries a maximum penalty of 15 years.

Four other defendants have agreed to plead guilty to federal pornography charges. They are Michael Honea, 52, of Huntington Beach; Samuel Lane, 68, of Costa Mesa; Johnny Hall, 52, of Mission Viejo; and Luke Thomas, 22, of Orange.

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