CHICAGO — A former local man was sentenced to 40 years in federal prison on Friday following an international child pornography investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Brian Annoreno, 35, created a live streaming online video of himself sexually molesting an infant in 2005. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison on child exploitation charges, ending one of the most significant international child exploitation investigations in this area, ICE officials said.
Annoreno, formerly of Bartlett, Ill., was among several Chicago-area men who were charged in 2006 with participating in a private Internet "chat room" used to facilitate trading thousands of illegal images. Annoreno and more than two dozen individuals in the United States, Canada, England and elsewhere were prosecuted as a result of an international undercover investigation that infiltrated the chat room, where Annoreno and others transmitted streaming video of live molestations through online instant-messenger services to participants around the world.
U.S. District Judge James Zagel sentenced Annoreno in federal court in Chicago. He has remained in federal custody since his arrest in January 2006, and he will receive credit for time served. He faced a mandatory minimum sentence of five years, and a maximum of 50 years in prison.
"This significant prison sentence concludes one of ICE HSI's most extensive child pornography investigations," said ICE Director John Morton. "Our investigators took aggressive action to target Brian Annoreno and take down the international network he was a part of that shockingly molested children ‘on demand' for others to request and view in secure video chat rooms. We are grateful for the support we received from our exceptional global law enforcement partners in Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom to dismantle this international conspiracy that targeted children."
Patrick J. Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, announced the sentence together with Morton and Gary J. Hartwig, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Chicago. Canadian police officials in Edmonton, Toronto, and Ottawa assisted in the joint international investigation.
The Illinois Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force, which operates out of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office, also participated in the case. The following agencies also assisted in the Illinois portion of the investigation: the Lake County state attorney's office; the Illinois police departments in Aurora, North Aurora and Bartlett; the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Iowa; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; and the FBI.
"This case involved the most disturbing criminal sexual assault of minors," Fitzgerald said. "The exploitation of children in such a depraved manner can never be tolerated. We are grateful for the extremely close cooperation between federal, state and local investigators and prosecutors around the country led by the strong efforts of ICE HSI investigators here in Chicago and the international cooperation spearheaded by Canadian authorities."
Annoreno pleaded guilty in December 2010 to receiving, transmitting and advertising child pornography, receiving child pornography, and possessing child pornography. As part of his written plea agreement, the government cited relevant conduct – that he produced a live streaming video of himself sexually molesting an infant – to be considered at sentencing.
Annoreno, who used the screen name "Acidburn," admitted participating in an Internet chat room known as "Kiddypics & Kiddyvids," which was hosted through a software program that allowed users to engage in "peer-to-peer" file sharing.
Annoreno admitted that between early 2005 and early 2006, he conspired with co-defendants Gregory J. Sweezer and Lisa A. Winebrenner and others to trade images of child pornography through the "Kiddypics & Kiddyvids" chat room. Sweezer, formerly of Aurora, Ill., was sentenced in May 2008 to 12 years in prison. Winebrenner, formerly of Osceloa, Iowa, was sentenced in March 2008 to serve 14 years in prison. Another co-defendant, Alan M. Jungels, also formerly of Aurora, was sentenced in March 2008 to 20 years in prison.
The chat room was maintained by a "host" and various "administrators" selected by the host, each of whom had special privileges, including establishing rules for participants. The primary host of the chat room was a Clarksville, Tenn., man until he was arrested in 2006. Winebrenner then, previously an administrator, became the host and assumed responsibility for maintaining accessibility for its participants.
This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders, and child sex traffickers.
ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.