Annette Cary / Tri-City Herald (TNS)
A Richland man has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for exploiting poor children to make child pornography videos, while he was already a registered sex offender.
Allen Richard Smith, 66, likely will end his life in prison, one of his attorneys wrote in court documents.
Judge Mary Dimke ruled in Yakima Federal Court on Monday that after completing his prison sentence Smith will be under lifetime probation. He will pay no restitution to victims because one of his attorneys said he is indigent.
She noted during the sentencing that Smith has shown that with even a cellphone in his hand, he poses a danger to children across the world, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington.
Smith directed real-time recording of sexual abuse of destitute boys in the Phillippines who were as young as 8.
Smith’s criminal history dates to a conviction in 1996 of molesting two boys ages 10 and 11.
He served no prison time and instead the case “was resolved with treatment and a promise not to harm another child,” federal prosecutors said in a court document.
He had been put on notice then about the harm sex offenses have on children, according to court documents.
“That seemingly did not impact him at all as he moved on to other child victims who desperately needed money,” according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Alison Gregoire in a court document.
Directed child porn remotely
In one recording that police obtained, Smith can be heard calling the Philippines, telling the person shooting a video what he wanted to see and also what they should tell the young boys to do.
He talked to some of the boys through an interpreter.
In another instance, Smith communicated through Facebook with a child in Guatemala, according to court documents.
The boy repeatedly said he needed money, but Smith told the boy he was not going to send money unless the child sent images.
The child eventually agreed and Smith sent money, which was collected by the boy’s mother.
After the video was seized in the United States, the boy was found and removed from his home.
In October 2017 Smith traveled to the Philippines, where the majority of his victims live, but authorities denied him entry to the country because he was a registered sex offender in the United States.
He also encouraged the boy from Guatemala to come to Washington state.
“Defendant was reaching out to increasingly more children and was distributing the images he encouraged them — sometimes encouraged by payment — to make,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Alison Gregoire wrote in a court document.
“Defendant’s abuse of children was not a discrete act or a momentary lapse in judgment,” she said. “This had gone on for years.”
He stopped only when police investigated Facebook posts uploaded in 2019 and 2020.
“Law enforcement learned about Mr. Smith based solely on images that Facebook reported, but the thorough investigation revealed his conduct was even more severe than downloading images from the Internet,” said U.S. Attorney Vanessa Waldref.
Officers seized a computer at his Richland house with a folder named “Allen’s files”and a subfolder Smith named “FB & Twitter Friends from Around the World — Collection of Pics & Vids.”
In that file, Smith specifically identified his victims with detailed lists of the boys’ names, ages, and locations.
Law enforcement officers were able to locate and interview several of Smith’s victims, although many could not be identified with certainty, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
One of the children said he now is afraid to go outside and has trouble sleeping, according to investigators.
Another said Smith’s crimes harmed his relationship with his family and friends. He said his wish is that Smith never be in the position to commit a crime against another child.
“Mr. Smith’s conduct demonstrates a shocking and callous objectification of vulnerable victims,” Waldref said.
A former attorney for Smith said Smith had been sexually abused by a neighbor when he was a child in Walla Walla and spent time in foster homes before leaving home at 16.
He obtained a master’s degree after studying human resource management and worked for Washington state, Idaho and Amazon. Between 1996 and the current case he had no other felony convictions.
His sentencing had been delayed, both because a new attorney was assigned to Smith and also because of his health issues.
His current attorney, Ricardo Hernandez of Sunnyside says Smith received inadequate medical care while being detained at SeaTac Federal Detention Center.
He uses a wheelchair and has mental health issues, Hernandez said. A cognitive assessment found difficulty with memory, attention, language and orientation.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the U.S. Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse.
Led by the 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 sexually exploit children, as well as to identify and rescue victims.
This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, the Southeast Regional Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the Richland Police Department. The case was prosecuted by Gregoire and David Herzog, both assistant U.S. attorneys for the Eastern District of Washington.
“Cases like this demonstrate how child exploitation cases defy traditional jurisdictions,” said Richland Police Chief Brigit Clary. “We know these offenders leverage technology to feed their destructive lifestyle, but we are committed to … pursue these offenders, even across international borders.”