Federal Jury Convicts Marion, N.C. Man Of Child Pornography

The Defendant Paid an Individual Overseas to Live Stream the Sexual Abuse of Children

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – A federal jury in Asheville has convicted Jacob Daylen Ross, 46, of Marion, N.C. of child pornography charges, announced William T. Stetzer, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger presided over the trial, which began on Thursday, March 4th, and ended on Monday, March 8, 2021.

Acting U.S. Attorney Stetzer is joined in making today’s announcement by Ronnie Martinez, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Charlotte, and Sheriff Ricky T. Buchanan of the McDowell County Sheriff’s Office.

According to filed court documents and evidence presented at trial, in June 2020, law enforcement became aware that Ross was involved in the online sexual exploitation of children overseas. Trial evidence established that Ross paid individuals abroad in exchange for live stream videos depicting children being sexually abused. Specifically, according to trial evidence, on multiple occasions Ross communicated via the WhatsApp messenger application with a woman residing in the Philippines and paid the woman to sexually abuse her young children while Ross watched a live stream video of the abuse. According to evidence presented at trial, law enforcement located on Ross’ seized cell phone 28 images of child pornography, which appeared to have been screenshotted during the course of a live stream video chat. A review of Ross’ Google accounts also revealed additional screenshotted images of the live sexual abuse of children.

The jury convicted Ross of five counts of production of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography. Ross is currently in federal custody. A sentencing date has not been set.

The production of child pornography charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years and a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison per count. The possession of child pornography charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Both charges carry a maximum fine of $250,000.

In making today’s announcement Acting U.S. Attorney Stetzer commended HSI and the McDowell County Sheriff’s Office for their investigation of this case and thanked the Wilkes County Sheriff’s Office for their invaluable assistance.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville prosecuted the case. The prosecution team was led by Special Assistant United States Attorney (SAUSA) Alexis Solheim. Ms. Solheim is a state prosecutor with the office of the 43rd Prosecutorial District and has been assigned by District Attorney Ashley Welch to serve as a SAUSA with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville.  Ms. Solheim is duly sworn in both state and federal courts.  The SAUSA position is a reflection of the partnership between the office of the 43rd Prosecutorial District and the United States Attorney’s Office.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse, launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), 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. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form.


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