A 39-year-old Burleson man faces up to 40 years in federal prison after being convicted Friday of two charges related to child porn, which prosecutors say he viewed on a website temporarily run by the U.S. government.
Sentencing for Daryl Glenn Pawlak is scheduled for Oct. 20, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. Government agents said that Pawlak spent more than 14 hours accessing child pornography on his computer from an illegal, members-only, darknet website called Playpen.
After the FBI discovered that Playpen was being run within the United States, the federal government seized the website’s server and operated the website during a two-week sting operation, authorities said. Pawlak was caught during that operation after agents deployed software that identified the user and tracked images of underage girls in sexual situations with grown men to Pawlak’s two work-issued computers.
Attorneys for the accused in some of these cases have argued that the sting operation exploited children the government was supposed to protect and treated them like bait for consumers of child pornography, according to reporting from The Dallas Morning News. But any such objections that were made in Pawlak’s case were either blocked or overturned by the court.
Federal prosecutors argued in a court brief in June that the jury’s only role was to determine whether Pawlak knowingly possessed and received child pornography.
Agents discovered more than 800 images of child pornography on one computer and evidence that the Tor browser had been installed, deleted and then reinstalled on another computer assigned to Pawlak. The jury heard testimony that it appeared that Pawlak had undertaken efforts to delete evidence of child pornography before returning the computer to his employer, authorities said.
The owner and operator of Playpen, Steven W. Chase, 58, of Naples, Fla., was sentenced to 30 years in prison in May, according to the FBI. Chase launched Playpen in the summer of 2014. In December 2014, a foreign law enforcement agency noticed that Chase had slipped up and revealed Playpen was based in the United States and the agency notified the FBI.
In January 2015, the FBI, in partnership with the Department of Justice’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, launched Operation Pacifier — an effort to go after Playpen’s thousands of members, the FBI said. Investigators sent more than 1,000 leads to FBI field offices around the country and thousands more to overseas partners.
Europol, the European Union’s agency for law enforcement cooperation, reported arrests, along with Israel, Turkey, Peru, Malaysia, Chile, and the Ukraine. International agencies critical to the investigation included CNCPO Polizia Postale e Comunicazioni of Italian State Police, the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency and New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs.