SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – A 70-year-old Sacramento man was convicted in federal court on Tuesday on five counts of child exploitation crimes, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced.

James E. Johnston was found guilty of conspiring to produce child pornography, two counts of receiving child pornography, possession of child pornography, and traveling in foreign commerce with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct. The guilty verdict was returned by a federal jury in Sacramento after a five-day trial before U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller.

Johnston, who was immediately taken into custody after the guilty verdict, faces a sentence of 15 years in prison and $250,000 fine when he’s sentenced on July 18.

According to testimony presented at trial, in February 2006, Johnston used his credit card to purchase a 20-day subscription to a website offering images and videos of child pornography. This website informed its customers that its content was illegal and instructed them to say that if they were contacted by law enforcement regarding their purchase, to say that their credit card had been stolen.

Johnston offered that defense during his trial. During the time of his subscription, Johnston downloaded about 300 videos of child pornography, some of which showed scenes of infants and toddlers being sexually molested.

Shortly thereafter, according to evidence presented at trial, Johnston began an online relationship through Yahoo Messenger with a woman identifying herself as Kim Lacson from Manila, Philippines. During the course of this relationship, Johnston engaged in extensive discussion about acquiring photographs of underage women that he would like to have sex with, and his future plans to travel to the Philippines in order to have sex with minors.

On August 12, 2006, Johnston told Lacson that he would be arriving in Manila on Sept. 14, 2006, and staying at the Mandarin Oriental. He then went on to instruct Lacson that on Sept. 15, 2006, she should “bring [him] young girls two of them,” and asked her to send pictures of “young ones for [him] to pick from.”

Flight records confirmed that Johnston left San Francisco for Hong Kong on Aug. 30, 2006. Testimony from a defense witness showed that as part of this trip, Johnston had made plans to fly to the Philippines. Those plans changed after Department of Homeland Security agents executed a search warrant at Johnston’s residence on Sept. 6, 2006, looking for evidence of his illegal purchase of child pornography in February.

“This defendant went to great lengths to prey on vulnerable children,” U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner said in press release announcing the verdict. “Despite a mountain of evidence against him, he denied it all. The jury saw the truth and convicted him on all charges. Those who commit similar crimes should expect to be prosecuted too.”

“This verdict should serve as a sobering warning for those who mistakenly believe they can evade justice by sexually exploiting children outside this country,” said Daniel Lane, assistant special agent in charge for ICE Homeland Security Investigations in Sacramento.

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