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May 5, 2013Boston, MA, United StatesChild Exploitation

Massachusetts man pleads guilty to solicitation to kidnap a child

Dungeon discussed in online chats discovered in defendant's basement; discussed mutual interest in abducting, raping, murdering and eating children with others in California, Florida, Kansas, New Jersey and New Mexico
Massachusetts man pleads guilty to solicitation to kidnap a child

BOSTON — A citizen of the United Kingdom and most recently of Worcester, Mass., pleaded guilty May 6 to solicitation to commit a crime of violence – kidnaping of a child – and distribution and possession of child pornography. The guilty plea is the result of an extensive worldwide investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

According to the agreed upon statement of facts, Geoffrey Portway, 40, of Worcester, engaged in numerous chats with many individuals about a mutual interest in abducting, raping, murdering and eating children. Many of these conversations were accompanied by the trading of child pornography. These chats also included images of children known to them, accompanied by discussions of the desire to sexually abuse, murder and cannibalize those children. Under the terms of the plea agreement, the court must sentence Portway to between 216 and 327 months in prison, a lifetime supervised release, restitution and forfeiture. He will also be required to register as a level three sex offender. Additionally, Portway is to be deported after serving his sentence.

As stated both in court filings and at the hearing today, through his online chats, Portway solicited several people for their help in abducting a child, predominately from Michael D. Arnett, 38, of Roeland Park, Kan.

At least as early as 2010, Portway utilized Skype and other programs to communicate with Arnett, trading child pornography including images of injured, mutilated and deceased children while chatting about the sexual abuse, rape, abduction, murder and cannibalism of children. Over months, Portway repeatedly solicited Arnett to kidnap a child for him, with the intent that Portway would ultimately rape, kill and eat that child. These solicitations for help abducting a child included discussing real children – by name and photo – that Arnett claimed to know and have access to.

In the chats, Portway and Arnett discuss different ways to kidnap children and the age range that Portway prefers. During the time that Portway was soliciting Arnett, Portway had been told that Arnett had helped others with such requests before and that Arnett had experience with the abduction and sexual abuse of children. Arnett has since pleaded guilty in Kansas to the sexual exploitation of a child for the purposes of producing child pornography.

According to additional court documents throughout the United States, Arnett was also communicating on the Internet with other child pornography suspects. The following have been arrested and charged as part of this international child pornography investigation; these suspects were communicating directly with Arnett via the Internet: Ronald Brown, 57, of Largo, Fla.; Robert Mucha, 56, of Newton, N.J.; Jason Scarcello, 42, of Anderson, Calif.; and Richard Dates, 67, of Grant, N.M.

HSI also arrested Robert Poe III, 38, of Kansas City, Kan., Aug. 10, 2012. Following the publicity of the Arnett arrest, Poe was identified in May 2012 after a victim came forward and reported that he and his brother were both sexually molested as minors by Poe and Arnett. Poe pleaded guilty Feb. 19.

On July 27, 2012, HSI special agents along with state and local police, executed a federal search warrant at Portway's residence in Worcester. Various computers and digital devices containing Portway's child pornography collection were seized, in addition to the computer he used to trade child photography and attempt to plan the abduction of a child.

During the execution of the search warrant, agents also discovered a locked door in the basement of the residence. Inside the door was a sally port that led to a second door with a keyed lock. Inside the second door was a dungeon, which was lined with acoustical sound-deadening material, a chair, television and what appeared to be cable access to the Internet. The room also contained a child-sized homemade coffin – with large speakers covered in wire mesh at one end – with exterior locking devices, a steel cage – approximately 3' wide, 2' high and 4' long – with multiple locking devices, and a steel table top – with steel rings at six points, presumably for restraints. Outside these rooms were a cabinet freezer, an upright freezer, disposable scalpels, butchering kits and castration tools. This dungeon was described in detail by Portway in recovered chats as a place he intended to use to keep kidnapped children while he sexually abused them, and as a place to eventually murder and cannibalize the children.

A forensic examination of the computers uncovered evidence of over 4,500 trades of child pornography between Portway and others. Many of these trades involved Portway distributing child pornography to others based on their stated specific preferences, including images and videos appearing to depict dead children and the cannibalism of children.

"Clearly, the facts of this case were quite disturbing and we are grateful law enforcement acted when they did," said U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz, District of Massachusetts. "I hope that this case sends a clear message that we will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law those who participate in these types of activities. Even though criminals attempt to hide in the anonymity provided by the Internet, the Department of Justice is committed to aggressively pursuing them to ensure that there is no place to hide."

"An investigation that began in Milford, Mass., in 2010 – expanded to Europe and beyond – has returned back to where it originally started: the Commonwealth of Massachusetts," said Bruce M. Foucart, special agent in charge of HSI Boston. "Since we began this operation – Operation Holitna – a worldwide network of offenders has been, and continues to be, unraveled, including Portway. Thanks to the determination of HSI special agents, along with our partners at the U.S. Attorney's Office, we have been able to rescue 160 children and arrest 51 perpetrators worldwide – all as a result of the arrest of a Milford man, and subsequent advanced forensics of his digital media. Portway's guilty plea should serve as a stern warning to those inclined to abuse children or share images of child pornography: there isn't a place in the United States, on the Internet, or on the planet in which you are truly safe. We will investigate you, we will prosecute you, and we will bring you to justice."

Today's guilty plea is part of Operation Holitna, an ongoing HSI-led investigation that originated in Boston. In 2010, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts and HSI Boston arrested Robert Diduca on child pornography production charges. He was convicted and subsequently sentenced in June 2012. Forensic analysis of Diduca's computer led investigators to the Netherlands where a Dutch national was arrested and charged with production, distribution and possession of child pornography, as well as the sexual assault of 87 minors. Since that time, a worldwide network of offenders has been, and continues to be, unraveled, including today's defendant. Defendants and victims continue to be identified around the world. To date, more than 160 children have been rescued and 51 perpetrators arrested worldwide – including Portway – as a result of Operation Holitna.

This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI 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. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.

U.S. Attorney Ortiz; Special Agent in Charge Foucart; Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early; Colonel Timothy Alben, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police; and Chief Gary J. Gemme of the Worcester Police Department made the announcement today.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stacy Dawson Belf, District of Massachusetts.

If you have any information related to this investigation please call +1-617-748-3274.