September 24, 2015 - United States Attorney Andrew M. Luger today announced the conviction of SEAN GERALD PENONCELLO, 41, for the production of child pornography involving two minor victims. On June 9, 2015, PENONCELLO was charged by superseding indictment with two counts of producing child pornography and one count of possessing child pornography. Following a three-day trial before Judge Patrick J. Schiltz, a jury found PENONCELLO guilty of all counts. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Provinzino said: “These are among the most difficult but important cases to prosecute. The jury’s verdict ensures that a man who is an opportunist and who has repeatedly sexually exploited children cannot do it again.”
Sergeant John Backman of the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office said: “This conviction will protect other children from the predatory behavior of Mr. Penoncello. In addition, the conviction sends a message to others involved in this underground activity that they will be pursued, located, and brought to justice.”
As proven at trial, on April 3, 2014, a series of nude images of an unidentified five-year-old minor were submitted to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) that were traced back to PENONCELLO’s residence in Cherry, Minn. On March 27, 2015, law enforcement executed a search warrant of PENONCELLO’s residence and recovered two hidden thumb drives and a surreptitious recording device taken from PENONCELLO’s truck.
As proven at trial, the evidence contained on the two thumb drives revealed sexually explicit images and videos of a second minor victim, produced when the victim was 14-years-old. The thumb drives also contained numerous pornographic images and videos of other known NCMEC-identified minor victims.
If you know of any child who may have been a victim of exploitation, please call the National Center for Missing or Exploited Children (NCMEC) at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) or visit NCMEC’s website at www.missingkids.com.
This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office, with assistance from the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office, Virginia Police Department and Eveleth Police Department.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Laura M. Provinzino and Benjamin F. Langner.
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, 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.
- SEAN GERALD PENONCELLO
- Iron, Minn.
- Production of Child Pornography, 2 counts
- Possession of Child Pornography, 1 count
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Minnesota
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