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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A Northeast Florida Interagency Child Exploitation and Persons Trafficking Task Force, or NEFL INTERCEPT, investigation led to guilty pleas for brothers Joshua Thomas Brown, 28, and Jonathan William Brown, 25, both of Jacksonville.
“These guilty pleas are a testament to the investigative partnerships of federal, state and local law enforcement who draw upon the resources and expertise of each member,” said HSI Jacksonville Assistant Special Agent in Charge K. Jim Phillips. “This partnership demonstrates the dedication of everyone involved in combating human trafficking and child exploitation, making our communities safer for our children.”
At sentencing, Joshua Brown faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a potential lifetime term of supervised release. His sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.
Jonathan Brown pleaded guilty on March 16 to downloading and receiving photos and videos depicting the sexual abuse of young children. His sentencing hearing is set for June 26. He faces a mandatory minimum term of five years and up to 20 years in prison, plus a potential lifetime term of supervised release.
Both men have been detained since their arrests.
According to court documents, in January 2022, an electronic service provider documented several incidents involving uploads of child sexual abuse material from an online account with the username “Jonathan Brown” and other identifiers traceable to the same name. These uploads occurred between July 2021 and December 23, 2021. The electronic service provider reports were forwarded to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office for investigation. The investigation revealed that at least one contraband file had been uploaded to the internet from Jonathan Brown’s residence in Jacksonville.
On July 8, 2022, agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and officers from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, and the Clay County Sheriff’s Office executed a federal search warrant at Jonathan Brown’s residence, who was home at the time. Agents seized several electronic devices, including computers, cellphones and storage media.
During an interview with law enforcement officials, Jonathan Brown said that he used his desktop computer to download child sexual abuse material, had started engaging in this conduct “a long time ago,” and had since been in a cycle of seeking such materials on the internet, downloading them and then deleting them. Forensic analysis of Brown’s electronic devices revealed hundreds of files of child sexual abuse materials, including a photo depicting a prepubescent child being sexually abused that Jonathan Brown downloaded from the internet on March 21, 2022.
Jonathan Brown’s brother, Joshua Brown, lived at the same residence and was also present during the search. During an interview with law enforcement, Joshua Brown admitted that one of the seized cellphones belonged to him and was used only by him. Forensic analysis of this phone revealed that it contained hundreds of files of child sexual abuse material, including a photo depicting a prepubescent child being sexually abused. In total, Joshua Brown knowingly possessed more than 2,100 videos and more than 600 photos depicting children being sexually abused that were recovered from three cellphones, a gaming computer, an external hard disk drive, and an online file-sharing account.
This task force is a unique public-private partnership where nonprofit organizations provide financial, technical, and other resources to law enforcement task forces dedicated to the fight against human trafficking and child exploitation. Operation Light Shine, as well as the Tim Tebow Foundation, allows law enforcement agencies to better serve the Northeast Florida communities and the many victims of human trafficking. Leaders believe the cooperative nature of the NEFL INTERCEPT task force can make a profound impact in rescuing victims of human trafficking. In addition to Murphy, Tebow and HSI special agents, the NEFL INTERCEPT task force consists of dedicated members from the sheriff’s offices with Clay County, Putnam County, St. Johns County, Nassau County, Duval County, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
“The digital world we live in creates opportunities to have instant access to very impressionable children,” Phillips said. “The members of the NEFL INTERCEPT task force will work tirelessly to rescue those who have fallen victim to criminals who seek to feed their perversions by exploiting children.”
As part of the NEFL INTERCEPT task force, these cases were investigated by HSI, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, and the Clay County Sheriff’s Office. They are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kelly S. Karase and D. Rodney Brown. These cases were also brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims.
HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (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 more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 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.
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