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April 3, 2015Oakland, CA, United StatesChild Exploitation

New federal child sexual exploitation charges lodged against Bay Area man as authorities seek help identifying hundreds of victims

OAKLAND, Calif. – A grand jury handed down a superseding indictment Thursday containing new child sexual exploitation charges against a Bay Area man whom investigators now suspect obtained sexually explicit images of more than 300 underage victims from across the U.S. and around the world.

Blake Robert Johnston, 41, of Martinez, was originally charged in October 2014 with traveling to another state with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor. The seven-count superseding indictment issued Thursday includes a charge of transporting a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity; one count of online coercion and sexual exploitation involving a second underage female; two counts of production of child pornography pertaining to two additional minor victims; and charges stemming from the possession and distribution of child pornography. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California.

The latest charges are the result of a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Martinez Police Department, with additional assistance provided by the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office and the police department in Salem, Oregon. Given the existence of victims overseas, HSI is also working closely with its attaché offices in multiple foreign countries and with authorities in Australia, Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Following Johnston’s arrest, HSI special agents seized multiple cell phones, computers, and digital storage devices belonging to the defendant. Forensic analysis of those devices, which is ongoing, has led to the positive identification of 31 possible underage victims in 12 states and overseas, including three minor females who allegedly had physical contact with the defendant.

Based on the analysis of Johnston’s devices, investigators now estimate there could be more than 300 other potential underage victims in this case, both domestically and worldwide. HSI is working closely with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) in an effort to identify the minors whose images have been encountered during the investigation, but authorities say most of the victims are not in existing databases.

“We’re appealing to anyone who has awareness about this defendant’s activities or his past contacts to come forward,” said Tatum King, acting special agent in charge for HSI San Francisco. “Those leads could be vital to helping us put together the pieces of this puzzle and most important, to ensuring that any underage victims receive the assistance and support they may need.”

Based on forensics examinations, investigators believe the defendant used multiple mobile applications to communicate with his underage contacts, including Kik, Skype, Omegle, ooVoo and Facebook, and employed a variety of user names, such as “sivaston,” “deadleafecho,” “moonage_daydream,” and “lethal.loyal.” Anyone with information related to this case is urged to call HSI’s national toll-free tip line – 1-866-DHS-2-ICE (1-866-347-2423) – or the Martinez Police Department’s tip line at 925-372-3457.

Johnston is scheduled for his next district court appearance April 7. He has been held without bond in federal custody since October 17, 2014, when he appeared following the original federal criminal complaint.