Updated: July 30, 2018 10:09 PM
A Duluth man is among half a dozen who were sentenced earlier this month for their roles in an online child pornography ring.
Eric Robinson, 42, pleaded guilty to producing child pornography. A Michigan judge sentenced him to 34 years in prison and 10 years of supervised release.
The charges were filed in Michigan last summer after an FBI investigation into sexual exploitation of teenage girls in an online chatroom. Posing as teenage boys or girls, a group of men allegedly lured teenagers to the website, then, according to court documents, convinced them to "undress, masturbate, and engage in other types of sexual activity on webcamera."
They would record the girls and share the videos with other group members, the criminal complaint said.
U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider for the Eastern District of Michigan said the men involved had different roles: Some were "hunters," some were "talkers," and some were "loopers." The hunters would find the girls and get them on the website.
"The talkers would talk with these girls and groom them and dare them to engage in certain acts on videotape for the men," Schneider said. "Then the loopers might play the videos back and they would convince these young girls to expose themselves on camera and then record it."
The complaint said Robinson, who reportedly went by the name "Spencer" online, had logged in to the website more than 2,000 times between April 1, 2015 and June 10, 2016. IP addresses associated with "Spencer's" account traced back to Robinson's workplace in Hermantown and home in Duluth.
The Internet Crimes Against Children task force had executed a search warrant at Robinson's house on June 30, 2016, court documents say. St. Louis County Sheriff Ross Litman confirmed his investigators were working on a case involving Robinson. Local law enforcement turned the evidence they had collected over to the FBI.
The criminal complaint said "numerous child pornography files have been found on the items seized from the residence."
Robinson allegedly told authorities that he was the only one in his house who had downloaded child porn. According to his LinkedIn, he works as an insurance agent.
According to Schneider, the men knew that some of the girls were depressed, had suicidal thoughts or had attempted suicide.
"Some of these men had children themselves," Schneider said. "And here ... in their private time, they were exploiting these young girls, and they were abusing them."
The other men sentenced ranged in age from 31-49 and were from all over the country: Las Vegas, Nevada; Springdale, Arkansas; Wappinger Falls, New York; Highland Park, New York; and Portland, Maine
Schneider said if there is any comfort at all, it is that the victims did not have to endure a trial.
"It's helpful, I believe, for the victims when the men plead guilty because then the girls are spared from being victimized all over again by having to testify in a jury trial," Schneider said.
It's not clear yet where Robinson will serve his prison time. Schneider said sometimes, defendants can request to serve at a location closest to their family.
The St. Louis County Sheriff's Office said now that Robinson was convicted and sent to prison, they will clear their own case.
Updated: July 30, 2018 10:09 PM
Created: July 30, 2018 06:00 PM
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