OAKLAND — A California man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for managing a private online chat where users distributed child pornography and new members were required to send him illicit videos involving minors, the Department of Justice announced.
Abel Garcia-DeLeon was arrested last year in Louisiana and extradited to California, where in June he pled guilty to facilitating the distribution of child sex abuse materials. In addition to the prison term, he was sentenced to 10 years supervised release, which will begin when he gets out of custody.
Garcia-DeLeon admitted he and a co-defendant managed an online group on the free private chat platform Kik Messenger, where users can meet each other anonymously. The group, formed in May 2020, grew to at least 10 other members besides the co-defendants, the DOJ said.
Members who wanted to join the group were met by an automatic chat bot — called “Rage Bot” by the defendants, according to prosecutors — and told to first send three child pornography videos to a private chat with Garcia-DeLeon and the co-defendant in order to “verify” themselves.
That secured an invitation to a second private group, where the “Rage Bot” would further instruct the new members to post videos “depicting children aged ten or younger who were engaged in sexually explicit conduct,” the DOJ said. Members who didn’t send videos within six minutes were kicked out.
As part of his plea, Garcia-DeLeon admitted to distributing images of minors engaged in sexual conduct within the group and keeping over 684 images and one video of child pornography on his phone.
But a criminal charge faced by Garcia-DeLeon for actually distributing the material was dismissed after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy — an agreement that likely helped him receive a lighter sentence from U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers.
His co-defendant, California resident Pooya Darabi, was arrested last year in the Bay Area at the same time as Garcia-DeLeon, and initially pleaded not guilty to criminal charges. The status of Darabi’s case was not clear Saturday morning; federal prosecutors did not discuss the case in their release on Garcia-DeLeon.
Garcia-DeLeon’s case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s office after an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations and the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s office. Details of how he was caught have not been made available to the public.