GREENBELT, Md. – Two Maryland men were sentenced to prison for their roles in an online child pornography bulletin board following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Allegany County Combined Criminal Investigations Unit, and the NASA Office of Inspector General.
George Sell, 70, of Cumberland, Md., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams, Jr. to 10 years in prison, followed by 10 years of supervised release, for conspiracy to transport child pornography in connection with his role as a lead administrator of an online child pornography bulletin board. Judge Williams also sentenced co-conspirator Terry Lee Nolley, 47, of Silver Spring, Md., to 97 months in prison, followed by lifetime supervised release, for transporting child pornography and destruction of records in a federal investigation, in connection with his participation in the bulletin board as a web host and member.
Judge Williams ordered that Sell and Nolley must register as sex offenders in the place where they reside, where they are employed, and where they are students, under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act.
According to their plea agreements, from December 2006 through August 2008, Sell, Nolley and other individuals conspired to operate "Country Lounge," a secure web-based bulletin board dedicated to trading images of child pornography. Members could join this group only upon invitation and after approval by the group's administrators, who included Sell. To obtain access to the bulletin board, members needed a log-in username and password. Members were instructed by a specific set of rules and guidelines on how to post images via "Country Lounge" to avoid detection from law enforcement. As of August 2008, 142 members belonged to the bulletin board, which was hosted on computer servers in Virginia and Texas. In October 2008, the bulletin board was seized by law enforcement authorities.
From December 2006 through July 2008, Sell was the "root administrator" and day-to-day manager of "Country Lounge," while Nolley agreed to host "Country Lounge" on computer servers maintained by him in Silver Spring. Sell conspired with other individuals to take control of "Country Lounge" from its former owner and administrator, directed the creation and operation of a new "Country Lounge," and received technical advice and assistance from co-conspirators to obtain his goal of creating and operating "Country Lounge." Sell directed the daily management of "Country Lounge," directing its layout and content, membership, and the "rules" of the board. In addition to hosting the board, Nolley assisted Sell with the creation and maintenance of "Country Lounge." After July 2008, Nolley transferred his web-hosting responsibilities to other co-conspirators, but continued as a "Country Lounge" member.
In November 2009, HSI special agents executed a search warrant at Sell's residence and removed two computer hard-drives and other items. A forensic review of these items found them to contain multiple images of child pornography, many of which he obtained from "Country Lounge." On Nov. 10, 2009, federal agents interviewed Nolley and instructed him not to remove anything from his residence. Later that day, agents executed a search warrant at Nolley's home and recovered several electronic devices. Nolley admitted that in the period of time between the interview and the execution of the search warrant, he had disposed of four additional hard drives believed to contain child pornography. Nolley specifically admitted that he left his home with the four hard drives and after taking steps to evade law enforcement, threw the hard drives into woods at the side of the road, in an effort to impede the federal investigation.
"The dismantling of "Country Lounge" is another stark warning to would-be child predators who think they can trade in child pornography and commit heinous acts against innocent children while hiding behind pseudonyms and other technological tricks," said William Winter, special agent in charge of the Baltimore ICE HSI Field Office. "As these criminals try new techniques to digitally erase their trail, ICE's Homeland Security Investigations along with our U.S. and international law enforcement partners continue to upgrade our strategies and technology to track down the depraved individuals who bring suffering to children."
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stacy Dawson Belf and U.S. Department of Justice Trial Attorneys Darcy Katzin and Jennifer Toritto Leonardo from the Criminal Division Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section.