On September 12, a Chesapeake man pleaded guilty to downloading “hundreds of thousands” of images depicting child abuse. The pictures, according to court documents, came from a darknet bulletin board. McClung, a 64-year-old Virginia resident, landed in the scope of a Homeland Security Investigations case in 2015. Agents arrested him last year.
According to court documents, Homeland Security Investigations opened an investigation into a darknet “child pornography bulletin board” in 2015. (HSI agents likely used bulletin board and forum interchangeably, given little difference existed then and now in 2017.) HSI identified McClung after he downloaded two videos in December 2015, shortly after the investigation began. The name of the bulletin board or forum remains undisclosed to the public.
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Not only was the site’s name being withheld from the public arena but starting in 2015, the site became the subject of a secret HSI investigation. Prosecutors said that revealing the site’s name could damage the ongoing investigating into the site and the members or users responsible for sharing an unknown number of illegal pictures and videos. The site, they revealed, had amassed more than 1,500 members or users since creation.
After HSI agents identified McClung for downloading two videos in December 2015, they began investigating the Chesapeake man. In November 2016, HSI agents raided his Cantor St. home. They seized computers and other storage mediums, along with McClung himself. After a forensic examination of the digital storage, investigators reported finding pictures and videos of “hundreds of thousands of minors.” All, of course, fell under the prosecution’s definition of “child pornography.”
Why the two videos had identified McClung remains unknown. As does the lack of arrests—or, more reasonably, the lack of press releases marking successful convictions. In the past, federal investigations into darknet child abuse forums led to high profile cases and hearings. This, according to the prosecution’s description, was a large case. But they also indicated that McClung may have been one of the only arrests linked to the forum.
Incidentally, in May 2017, HSI agents and local police arrested a 70-year-old Chesapeake man for distributing child pornography. They had monitored “a peer to peer filesharing network in undercover capacity” and collected IP addresses connected to CP distribution. Those IP addresses linked back to the 70-year-old teacher of children at a Chesapeake church. The investigation had involved the FBI’s Innocent Images Task Force, along with the HSI agents assigned to the case. While likely unrelated HSI child pornography investigations, the men stayed less than 20 minutes apart in Chesapeake, VA.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Yusi declined to comment. McClung’s sentencing hearing is set for January 17 of next year.