Local man pleads guilty to sexually exploiting minors

Posted: August 16, 2013

The Winchester Star

Brian Patrick Aronhalt

HARRISONBURG — A Frederick County man and self-proclaimed “boy lover,” pleaded guilty Thursday to several charges of sexually exploiting minors.

Brian Patrick Aronhalt, 32 — who is being held at Rockingham Regional Jail in Harrisonburg — appeared Thursday in U.S. District Court there and pleaded guilty to eight charges.

Count one charges him with knowingly persuading, inducing, enticing or coercing 19 individuals under the age of 18 to engage in sexual activity. Count two charges him with conspiring to do such activity for the purpose of transmitting a live visual depiction.

Counts three through six charge Aronhalt with “employing, using, persuading, inducing, enticing or coercing any minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct for the purpose of transmitting a live visual depiction.”

Count seven charges him with knowingly distributing that content, and count eight charges him with knowingly possessing or accessing with intent to view one or more books, magazines, periodicals, films, videotapes or other materials with a visual depiction of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct.

According to court documents, he made the guilty pleas as part of an agreement that dismisses indictments charging him with two counts of transportation of child pornography.

He will be sentenced at an undetermined date and faces up to life in prison.

Aronhalt — who was operating as “New guy 543” on a peer-to-peer file-sharing network — was investigated for months by undercover police agents.

While in Frederick County, he lived in the 300 block of Sorrel Lane.

During the investigation, police found that he had more than 12,000 images and videos available for sharing — “the majority of which appeared to be child pornography or had file names indicative of child pornography.”

He also was found to have been using video chat websites to entice boys to perform sexual acts in front of webcams, according to the original complaint.

A factual basis in the case states that Aronhalt coerced 19 minor boys — many appearing to be between the ages of 11 and 15 — to masturbate in front of their webcams and stream the live images to him.

It states that he posed as a minor female and used the alias “leslie.orslo.” He used various video chat software, including Skype, omegle.com and chatroulette.com, the court document states.

While the minors were engaged in sexually explicit conduct, Aronhalt would use video recording software to capture the images so they could be viewed at later times.

Investigators found that Aronhalt explained his “webcam scheme” to another person over an online chat, the court document states.

“The defendant began to engage in this webcam scheme after he was coached by at least one other individual known to the United States, as part of a conspiracy to produce child pornography,” the factual basis states.

Through a series of online conversations, the other individual allegedly coached Aronhalt on how to pose as a minor female, play a sexually explicit recording of a female to make it appear as if it were live and initiate conversations with minor boys and persuade them to engage in similar conduct.

Aronhalt was arrested Sept. 7 after FBI agents and members of the Northern Virginia-D.C. Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force executed a search warrant at his home.

“Aronhalt stated that he is a ‘boy lover’ and acknowledged his involvement in a number of boy lover groups,” court documents state. “Aronhalt stated that he has traveled to other states to visit boy lovers who he had met via the world wide web.”

Further investigation revealed that Aronhalt had numerous images of child pornography and a document entitled “Hand Book 4 Child Lovers.docx.”

— Contact Melissa Boughton at mboughton@winchesterstar.com