For at least a decade starting in 2009, a network of websites sexually exploited young, poor and vulnerable girls from Eastern Europe, claiming that they could avoid prosecution under federal law by avoiding publication of nude images of child victims who were photographed “in sexual and provocative poses.”
The bookkeeper for that enterprise—which made millions from an international audience and laundered their loot through a company called “Evil Angel Jewelry”—received a more than 12-year federal prison sentence on Wednesday.
Moldovan-born Tatiana Power, a 41-year-old from Weston, Florida, helped run a series of websites operating under the name Newstar, which were founded by her late husband, Kenneth Power. The parent company of the Newstar websites was named Power Trading, on which Tatiana Power was a vice president and 50 percent shareholder.
“For over a decade, Power managed the financial affairs of a child exploitation enterprise run by her husband that victimized over one hundred vulnerable children in Eastern Europe,” federal prosecutors wrote in her sentencing memo.
The web over 100 websites, hosted at separate URLs, depicted child victims between the ages of six to 17 years old, alongside the words “Newstar,” “Tinymodel,” or “Sweet.”
“Some of those images and videos, though non-nude, depicted minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct,” the Department of Justice said. “For example, images and videos sold on the Newstar Websites depicted children as young as six years old in sexual and provocative poses, wearing police and cheerleader costumes, thong underwear, transparent underwear, revealing swimsuits, pantyhose, and miniskirts.”
Drawing from mostly poor and vulnerable girls from Ukraine, Moldova and other Eastern European nations, the websites billed themselves as “100% legal non nude.” Another disclaimer asserted that the images did not run afoul of federal statutes punishing the possession or receipt of child sexual abuse materials. Prosecutors noted, however, that was a ruse.
“Federal courts have uniformly held, though, that non-nude content may still constitute chargeable child pornography when it includes a lascivious exhibition of a minor’s clothed genitals or pubic area,” they wrote in a sentencing memo.
Marketing to an international audience, the websites offered subscriptions of $49.99 (34 days), $79.99 (60 days), and $99.99 (90 days), allowing users to pay in credit cards and cryptocurrency—and advising them how to avoid prosecution, according to the government.
A Bulgarian national named Plamen Velinov allegedly recruited the victims from Ukraine, Moldova and other Eastern European nations. He was arrested in Sofia on Nov. 15.
“Using the recruited child-victims, the Newstar Enterprise produced more than 4.64 million images and videos intended for sale on the Newstar Websites,” prosecutors say.
Prosecutors say that their subscribers and customers counted thousands of people from 101 nations across the world, generating $9.4 million between 2005 and 2019.
For roughly a decade of that time, prosecutors say, Power knowingly laundered some $4.6 million of that amount. She accomplished this in part through the creation of a sham company called “Evil Angel Jewelry,” purportedly dedicated to the sale of costume jewelry, according to her indictment.
Prosecutors say that Tatiana Power “pumped the heart” of the illicit enterprise.
“She bore important, active responsibilities within the enterprise,” her sentencing memo states. “Working down the hallway from her husband’s home office—the office from which he managed the Newstar Websites and edited, vetted, and arranged to produce child pornography and child erotica for publication on those websites—Power served as the Newstar Enterprise’s ‘bookkeeper’ and managed its QuickBooks, oversaw its bank accounts, sent wires to coconspirators, filed annual and quarterly reports, signed checks, and opened bank accounts.”
The conspiracy netted six indictments. Two of the defendants are now dead. Three have been sentenced, and Velinov’s charges remain pending.
(Photo via DOJ)
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