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Tampa, Florida – Acting United States Attorney Karin Hoppmann announces the unsealing of two indictments in connection with an international enterprise based in Florida that operated subscription-based sexually exploitative “child modeling” websites. Plamen Georgiev Velinov (48, Sofia, Bulgaria) is charged with conspiring to advertise and distribute child pornography in connection with the Florida-based enterprise. Anthony Lee Kendall (55, Mossyrock, WA) is charged with money laundering and money laundering conspiracy in connection with his laundering of approximately $1 million for the enterprise.
Arrests of Defendants Velinov and Kendall
Velinov was arrested yesterday in Sofia, Bulgaria by officers from Bulgarian National Investigative Service and the Sofia Metropolitan Police at the request of the United States. Kendall was arrested yesterday in Washington.
If convicted, Velinov faces a minimum mandatory penalty of 15 years’ imprisonment for conspiring to advertise child pornography, a minimum 5 years’ imprisonment for conspiring to distribute child pornography, and a total maximum penalty of 50 years’ imprisonment for both offenses. The indictment also notifies Velinov that the United States intends to forfeit more than $434,000 in assets that are alleged to be traceable to proceeds of the offenses. If convicted, Kendall faces up to 20 years in federal prison for each count of the five-count money laundering charges in the indictment. The indictment also notifies Kendall that the United States intends to forfeit $944,678 in assets that are alleged to be traceable to proceeds of the offenses.
According to court documents, Velinov assisted with directing and controlling the foreign functions 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. Velinov helped maintain and update the Newstar Websites. Kendall performed financial functions essential to the Newstar Enterprise. Kendall fraudulently opened payment processing, merchant, and bank accounts for the Newstar Enterprise and facilitated, conducted, and concealed monetary transactions involving approximately $1 million in revenue from the Newstar Websites. Kenneth Power (deceased at 58, of Weston), was a principal member of the Newstar Enterprise who directed and controlled its operations. Patrice Eileen Wilowski-Mevorah (53, of Tampa) and Mary Lou Bjorkman (58, of Lutz) recently pleaded guilty to laundering money for the Newstar Enterprise. Kenneth Power’s wife, Tatiana “Tanya” Power (41, of Weston), is currently pending trial on money laundering charges in connection with the Newstar Enterprise. Other members of the Newstar Enterprise resided in Europe.
The Newstar Enterprise and Status of Other Defendants
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, six members of the Newstar Enterprise have been charged in connection with the Newstar Websites.
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 and the High Technology Investigative Unit of the Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), with substantial assistance provided by Homeland Security Investigations offices in Fort Lauderdale, Athens, and the Hague, U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Sofia, Bulgaria, as well as the IRS Criminal Investigation in Tampa.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Murray of the Middle District of Florida and Trial Attorney Kyle Reynolds of the 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; International Legal Assistance Center (IRC), North-Holland Unit; the Cantonal Police (Berne); and the Czech Republic, Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office, Czech Police. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided investigative assistance.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.