8 L.A.-Area Men Arrested in Child Pornography, Exploitation Cases

Federal authorities on Friday announced several recent arrests in the Los Angeles area related to child pornography and exploitation cases.

Officials detained eight men over the past 10 days in a sweep involving Project Safe Childhood, a Justice Department initiative intended to combat sexual exploitation and abuse of minors, according to an agency statement.

On Thursday, the FBI arrested 36-year-old Nestor Ramirez of South L.A. and 53-year-old Victor Manuel Diaz Romo of Lawndale.

Ramirez pleaded not guilty to charges related to accusations that he created and distributed child pornography videos through a peer-to-peer network at least two times, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California.

Romo pleaded not guilty to five counts of possession of child pornography, prosecutors said.

Both men were ordered to stand trial on Nov. 27.

FBI agents arrested six others during a sweep on Sept. 26 and 27: Christopher Norman Strinden, 57, of Long Beach; Kenneth Rudy Smith, 31, of Lawndale; Justin Schobey, 19, of Canyon Country; Jorge De Los Santos, 31, of South L.A.; Fernando Vazquez Garcia, 30, of South L.A.; and Nathan Pham, 27, of Long Beach.

Strinden was charged with three counts of possessing child pornography he procured from a now-defunct website that operated on the dark web, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Authorities said 17,000 photos believed to depict children under 12, including toddlers, were involved in the case.

Smith was charged with one count of possession of child pornography with victims under 12, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Authorities reported collecting evidence during a search of his Lawndale home.

Prosecutors filed charges of production, distribution and possession of child pornography against Schobey, who’s accused of using text messages to force a boy in another state to produce pornography.

De Los Santos used a peer-to-peer network to find sexually explicit videos of young boys, authorities alleged. He was charged with two counts of receipt and once count of possession of child pornography.

Garcia also allegedly obtained videos through a file-sharing network and was charged with receipt of child pornography.

Pham faced charges of receipt and possession of child pornography that he got acquired through a peer-to-peer network.

Each of the men pleaded not guilty to the charges filed against them. Their trials were scheduled to occur later this year.