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The Happy Scientist – Utah Man Who Runs Popular YouTube Channel Arrested for Downloading Child Porn

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Investigators say they found “thousands upon thousands” of pornographic images involving children on a storage device belonging to a Kane County man who runs a popular educational YouTube channel.

When authorities expanded a sting operation conducted earlier this month, they received information that led them to 64-year-old John Robert Krampf, who was indicted in federal court Thursday on one count of possession of child pornography and one count of receipt of child pornography.

In the indictment, prosecutors allege that Krampf “did knowingly possess” material containing images of child pornography involving children under the age of 12. Additionally, those images were transported in “interstate and foreign commerce.”

The charges stem from a 3-day sting operation conducted two weeks ago that was set in motion when authorities were alerted to an ad on Craigslist in which an individual posted a message implying that time could be spent with a child and asking those interested to respond via email. The sheer volume of responses to the ad prompted authorities to expand the operation.

It was then that authorities obtained information that led them to Krampf’s residence in Kane County, where they recovered “a significant amount of data and other materials” associated with the exploitation of children.

Dixie State Police Chief Blair Barfuss, who is cross-deputized to work with the FBI as part of a child-exploitation task force, coordinated the sting operation that resulted in a dozen arrests that took place at various locations throughout St. George.

Barfuss told St. George News that 20 hard drives were seized during a search of Krampf’s residence, including a 4-terabyte hard drive that was connected to one of several computers recovered by police.

During a forensic review of that hard drive, he said investigators found “thousands, upon thousands, upon thousands” of inappropriate images and videos of children.

“With 19 hard drives still to go, we knew we had a bigger problem,” Barfuss said. “So we decided to send everything to the FBI field office and get the U.S. Attorney’s Office involved at that point.”

After contacting an FBI field agent in Salt Lake City, who Barfuss said provided a great deal of assistance during the sting, the equipment was sent north to be forensically analyzed. Within days, the indictment against Krampf was filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela Marie Reddish-Day.

Barfuss said the amount of data recovered led investigators to believe that Krampf “had apparently been doing this for a long time.” The activity had not gone unnoticed by the FBI, Barfuss said, adding that the suspect had allegedly been sending illicit files to the agency during the undercover operation utilizing the dark web, a collection of hidden websites that can only be accessed via invitation by users who mask their identity and location.

Through the course of the investigation, officers also learned that Krampf produced a number of educational videos relating to various science subjects that are shown on YouTube and geared toward school-age children. The collection of videos, titled “The Happy Scientist,” are narrated by Krampf himself. One of the videos has apparently been viewed over 3 million times.

Given what was allegedly found in his possession, Barfuss said Krampf’s ownership of such a channel is “disturbing,” adding that “We found that concerning, to say the least.”

The second charge in the indictment filed against Krampf, receipt of child pornography, carries elevated penalties if convicted, including mandatory minimums in sentencing, which in this case is 5 years in federal prison. The heightened severity is based on the difference between possessing child pornography, versus the transfer of files over a peer-to-peer network, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

Overall, the penalties at the federal level for these types of cases have increased. In 1997, the average sentence for a person convicted of a charge relating to child pornography was just over 20 months, but 13 years later, it jumped to 118 months. Along with the rise in stiffer penalties came a spike in the number of cases being filed in federal court — from about 50 per year in the 1990s to more than 1,880 cases per year by 2010.

There are other cases filed during the sting that could result in federal charges, Barfuss said, including those that allegedly involved interstate travel. But at this point, Krampf is the only case that has resulted in federal indictment.

Krampf is scheduled to appear via video in U.S. District Court in St. George before Magistrate Judge Paul Kohler on Monday, and he remains in custody as there is no bail system in federal cases.

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Written by G Raymond

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