ALEXANDRIA, Va. – An investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington, D.C. field office resulted in convictions of four men for their involvement in an online child exploitation network. A federal court convicted Christopher William Kuehner, 38, of Bremerton, Washington, Tuesday, while co-defendants, Jacob Royce Mullins, 20, of South Webster, Ohio; Kyle William Leishear, 43, of Bayonet Point, Florida; and Matthew Martin, 25, of Lancaster, Wisconsin pleaded guilty to their roles in the enterprise.
According to the HSI Washington, D.C. investigation, from around September to December 2020, Kuehner, Mullins, Leishear, and Martin were prominent members of an internet website titled “Rapey.su.” The website was dedicated to, among other things, child sexual exploitation.
After becoming a member of the website, Kuehner repeatedly induced and enticed minor girls to produce child sexual abuse material for both him and the other members of the website.
“The actions of the four defendants in this case are nothing short of reprehensible,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Derek W. Gordon of HSI Washington, D.C. “They shamefully targeted the most vulnerable members of our community for their own perverse desires. Protecting children from abuse and holding those individuals who would victimize minors accountable is something HSI Washington, D.C. remains passionate about. We are always watching closely for indicators of child exploitation throughout our communities.”
Special agents from HSI Washington, D.C. field office seized and shut down the website in December 2020.
The investigation yielded an additional arrest last year. A federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA) convicted Ashley Kolhoff, 22, of Port Clinton, Ohio of production of child pornography for her participation on the Rapey.su website.
Other users around the country have been successfully prosecuted in state and federal courts for offenses committed on the website.
Kuehner, Mullins, and Martin each face mandatory minimum sentences of 20 years in prison when sentenced on April 25, as does Leishear when he is sentenced on May 9.
The investigation was conducted by HSI Washington, D.C. with significant assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for EDVA.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.
Anyone with information regarding child exploitation is encouraged to provide their tips to law enforcement. Homeland Security Investigations has a nationwide tipline that members of the public can call to report what they know. You can reach HSI at 1-866-DHS-2423. The HSI tipline is manned 24 hours a day.
HSI is the principal investigative arm of DHS, responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 6,800 special agents assigned to 225 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.