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PITTSBURGH, Pa. - A resident of Pittsburgh, Pa., pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of violating federal child sexual exploitation laws, United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced today.
Russell Freed, 43, pleaded guilty before United States District Judge Terrence F. McVerry to four counts of production and attempted production of sexually explicit images of children and to one count each of distributing, receiving, and possessing sexually explicit images of children.
In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that, between Sept. 1, 2010, and May 25, 2011, Freed used coercion and deception to induce, and to attempt to induce, 15-year-old female victims to produce many sexually explicit images of themselves and to then send the images to him via cell phone text messages. Once Freed possessed a sexually explicit image of a particular victim, he would coerce, or attempt to coerce, the production of more sexually explicit images by threatening to distribute the images he already possessed to the victim's family members and classmates. Freed did distribute the images to family members and classmates when he did not get his way.
Judge McVerry scheduled sentencing for June 29, 2012, at 9:30 a.m. The law provides for a total sentence of at least 15 years and up to 170 years in prison, a fine of up to $1,750,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the criminal history, if any, of the defendant.
Assistant United States Attorney Craig W. Haller is prosecuting this case on behalf of the United States.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Ross Township Police Department, the Pittsburgh High Tech Crimes Task Force, the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office, the Pennsylvania State Police, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the Brentwood Police Department investigated the case leading to the conviction of Freed.
This case is a product of Project Safe Childhood. Launched in February 2006, Project Safe Childhood is a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the U.S. Attorneys' Offices and the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the Department of Justice, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children, as well as identify and rescue victims.
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