A series of charges and convictions were announced today in connection with an international enterprise based in Florida that operated subscription-based sexually exploitive “child modeling” websites.
According to court documents, Kenneth Power (deceased at 58, of Weston), was a principal member of the Newstar Enterprise – an internet-based business aimed at for-profit sexual exploitation of vulnerable children under the guise of “child modeling” through a collection of websites called the Newstar Websites. Patrice Eileen Wilowski-Mevorah, 53, of Tampa, and Mary Lou Bjorkman, 58, of Lutz, recently pleaded guilty to laundering money for the Newstar Enterprise. Other members of the Newstar Enterprise resided in Europe. Kenneth Power’s wife, Tatiana “Tanya” Power, 41, of Weston, is currently pending trial on money laundering charges in connection with the Newstar Enterprise.
According to court documents, founded around 2005, the Newstar Enterprise built, maintained, hosted and operated the Newstar Websites on servers in the United States and abroad. To populate the Newstar Websites with content, Newstar Enterprise members sourced, enticed, solicited and recruited males and females under the age of 18, some of whom were prepubescent, to use as “child models” for the Newstar Websites. Using the recruited child-victims, the Newstar Enterprise produced more than 4.6 million sexualized images and videos to distribute and sell on the Newstar Websites. Some of those images and videos, though non-nude, depicted minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. For example, images and videos sold on the Newstar Websites depicted children as young as 6 years old in sexual and provocative poses, wearing police and cheerleader costumes, thong underwear, transparent underwear, revealing swimsuits, pantyhose and miniskirts. Most of the child-victims - recruited from Ukraine, Moldova and other nations in Eastern Europe - were particularly vulnerable due to their age, family dynamics and poverty. Law enforcement officers have disabled the servers hosting the Newstar Websites.
The Newstar Enterprise maintained a membership list for subscribers and customers of the Newstar Websites, who originated from 101 nations across the world. Images in the websites’ galleries were freely available to the public to preview, but greater access and more content required purchasing a subscription. The sale of purported “child modeling” content on the Newstar Websites generated more than $9.4 million during the course of the conspiracy. To process, receive and distribute this money, Newstar Enterprise members fraudulently opened merchant and bank accounts in the United States and laundered proceeds using a bogus jewelry company.
To date, four members of the Newstar Enterprise have been charged in connection with the Newstar Websites. The chart below shows the statuses of each case.
A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The defendants have also been notified that the United States intends to forfeit a total of $9.4 million, which are alleged to be traceable to proceeds of the offenses, in addition to real property located in Florida.
These cases were investigated by Homeland Security Investigations in Tampa, with substantial assistance provided by Homeland Security Investigations offices in Fort Lauderdale, Athens, and the Hague, as well as the IRS-Criminal Investigation in Tampa. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided investigative assistance.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Murray of the Middle District of Florida and Trial Attorney Kyle Reynolds of the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) are prosecuting these cases.
This investigation benefited from foreign law enforcement cooperation and substantial assistance by the Republic of Bulgaria, Supreme Cassation Prosecution Office and National Investigation Service; the Republic of Moldova, Office of the Prosecutor General and National Inspectorate of Investigations; the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Department for Combating Crime Cybercrime Office, Public Prosecution Service (North-Holland Unit); the Italian Republic; and the Czech Republic, Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office, Czech Police.
An indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.