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June 28, 2023Kansas City, MO, United StatesChild Exploitation

Missouri man sentenced to 27 years for conspiracy to produce child sexual abuse material

The man viewed online rape and sexual abuse of a 7-year-old victim

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Blue Springs man who watched online as a 7-year-old girl was raped and sexually abused was sentenced in federal court June 22 for his role in a conspiracy to produce child sexual abuse material. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Western Missouri Cybercrimes Task Force investigated the case.

Justin W. Hardin, 46, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Stephen R. Bough to 27 years and three months in federal prison without parole. The court also sentenced Hardin to spend the rest of his life on supervised release following incarceration.

On Feb. 2, 2023, Hardin pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to produce child pornography, two counts of receiving child pornography over the internet, one count of distributing child pornography over the internet and one count of possessing child pornography.

According to court documents, investigators identified an individual who was posting photos and videos of his sexual abuse and rape of a 7-year-old girl online. Hardin engaged in numerous chats with this individual on Google Hangouts between Aug. 1 and Sept. 3, 2019. During the chats, Hardin viewed in real time the individual’s sexual abuse and rape of the child victim. In addition, Hardin asked the individual to write “Abbi Dillon,” Hardin’s online screen name, on the child’s body while the abuse was occurring.

On Sept. 11, 2019, law enforcement officers seized Hardin’s iPhone. A forensic evaluation revealed evidence of the receipt and distribution of child sexual abuse material, as well as images of the sexual abuse of the 7-year-old victim.

The individual who sexually assaulted the child victim was sentenced in another jurisdiction to 25 years imprisonment for aggravated indecent liberties with a child and 155 months for rape, to be served consecutively.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Catherine A. Connelly prosecuted the case.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the U.S. attorneys' offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims.

Learn more about HSI’s mission to combat child exploitation in your community on Twitter @HSIKansasCity.