Man lured Iowa, Illinois girls for porn with fake Facebook accounts

Mark Barnwell

Peoria, Illinois - A Texas man's been sentenced to 35 years in prison for producing child pornography with children in eight states including Iowa and Illinois.

Mark P. Barnwell of Whitehouse, Texas was convicted in U.S. District Court in Peoria, Illinois for using fake accounts on Facebook posing as a female modeling agent, and promising to pay 43 underage girls for nude, sexually suggestive photos. 

He also used hidden  cameras to make videos looking up women's skirts in public places, as hidden cameras to make videos of women using public restrooms. 

According to the U.S. Attorney's office for Central Illinois, the 36-year-old Barnwell lived in a shed behind a relative’s house in Whitehouse, Texas. Barnwell’s victims included minor-aged girls, including 28 girls from Central Illinois, and more victims from Iowa, California, Mississippi, Nevada, Texas, Washington, and West Virginia.

Barnwell entered his pleas of guilty on Aug. 29, 2018. 

He admitted that while he was already a registered sex offender, he exploited the minors online by using false personas on Facebook. Barnwell controlled multiple female-presenting profiles which he used to contact female Facebook users, including minors, and advertised a modeling opportunity he claimed would pay up to thousands of dollars per photo shoot.

At Barnwell’s urging, the minors who accepted the offer then took, and sent to him, photographs which they believed were being produced for the purposes of a modeling portfolio. The minor victims believed they would be paid by cash, check, or direct deposit once they completed the modeling portfolio process. At Barnwell’s explicit direction, the photographs taken by the minors progressed from various stages of undress to sexually suggestive and/or sexually explicit photographs of themselves. 

Once he obtained compromising images, Barnwell threatened to injure the minor victims’ reputations and embarrass them by posting their nude pictures online if they failed to comply with his demands for additional images.  In total, Barnwell used this scheme to obtain nude photographs from 43 minor victims located in nine judicial districts across eight states.

In addition to the videos and images related to sexual exploitation of children on Barnwell’s devices, law enforcement authorities found multiple videos captured by Barnwell, including several where he filmed up women’s skirts in public or attempted to do so, and a large number of videos where Barnwell surreptitiously filmed women using public bathrooms. Authorities also discovered what is believed to be the hidden camera he used to capture the videos.

The U.S. Attorney's office says even after serving his prison term, Barnwell will remain on supervised release for the rest of his life.

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