In a PlayPen case that worked in the government’s favor, U.S. District Judge Carlos E. Mendoza sentenced 62-year-old Richard Lueck to serve 12 years in prison. Unlike many recent headline PlayPen cases, such as USA v. David Tippens or USA v. Jay Michaud, Lueck was not represented by Colin Fieman. Fieman, one of the more well-known names in the FBI’s Operation Pacifier feud, got a six month sentence for one of his clients and convinced the Department of Justice to drop all charges against the other. In spite of the hundreds of documents filed against the government’s so-called “outrageous conduct,” Lueck lost.
Like Tippens, the FBI charged Lueck with three child pornohraphy charges. All three stemmed from his activity (i.e., membership) on the child pornography site titled “PlayPen.” The hidden service forums, according to the Application for a Search Warrant that targeted Tor users across the globe, operated since August 2014. Lueck however, revealed that “he had obtained child pornography from the Darknet for six years, and that he had used an encrypted browser to conceal his illegal conduct from law enforcement.” No court documents explained why he revealed that extra evidence to the courts; the FBI only charged him with 2015 crimes.
Divulging excess information—or any at all—appears to be a trend amongst the defendants in the PlayPen case. For instance, another recently convicted member of Playpen casually admitted guilt to an FBI agent. On the phone.
An excerpt from a DeepDotWeb article on Daryl Glenn Pawlak, the defendant in question:
“The FBI… called him. They asked if he knew about Tor. He responded by admitting that he did and that he knew it was ‘pretty big’ regarding child sexual abuse sites. He admitted that he was aware of ‘quite a few’ of these sites on the darknet… [H]e told the FBI that he ‘probably’ accessed Playpen with the username ‘notsoslow.’ He told the FBI that he found another illegal website of the same nature. And that he accessed the website from his work computer. He ‘thought’ his account on the computer was ‘[d.pawlak].’”
The FBI played a recording of the phone call in court and the jury’s verdict was an unsurprising “guilty.”
Lueck used PlayPen until March 4, 2015—the date the FBI stopped operating the site from their servers in Virginia. A Florida judge signed a search warrant for Lueck’s house and upon execution, officers found ample evidence of possession of child pornography. Agents seized Lueck’s computers and found 143 pictures that depicted child pornography. He was charged with two counts of receipt of child pornography and one count of possession. He pleaded guilty to one count of receipt of child pornography, and in return received a prison sentence of 12 years and seven months. Following release, Lueck must remain under federal supervision for 10 years.
And prior to incarceration, he must forfeit: one HP desktop computer and intemal Seagate hard drives, one Dell laptop and one internal Seagate hard drive; one 500 Gigabyte external hard drive; and one 250 Gigabyte external hard drive.