NEWS

Gaston Man Sentenced to 27 Years for Production of Child Pornography

 United States Attorney Corey F. Ellis announced today that Sean Michael Bandelier, 44, of Gaston, was sentenced to 27 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to the production of child pornography.

Bandelier

Evidence presented in court showed that Bandelier coerced a minor child under six years old to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing photographs and videos of the abuse, which Bandelier then distributed by text message and the internet. Evidence indicated Bandelier was communicating with a person he believed was the mother of a child in another state making her child available for sexual abuse. The pair discussed past and potential future abuse of multiple children.  In truth, Bandelier was speaking with a man in New Mexico who was a target of authorities in that state for offenses related to the sexual abuse of children.  During their conversations, Bandelier distributed photographs and videos of the sexual abuse of children to the New Mexico target.

On August 5, 2020, investigators with the South Carolina Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force at the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office and the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department received a lead indicating a victim may be in immediate danger of being abused.  Search warrants and the arrest of Bandelier were executed that same day, with the assistance of the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and other federal and local agencies.  Bandelier was charged by way of Criminal Complaint and has remained in custody since that time. 

Bandelier ultimately pled guilty to the production of child pornography. Facts presented at sentencing also provided evidence that Bandelier formatted a phone as law enforcement approached, likely destroying evidence, for which the court enhanced Bandelier’s sentence for obstruction of justice.

United States District Mary Geiger Lewis sentenced Bandelier to 324 months in federal prison, to be followed by a lifetime term of court-ordered supervision.  There is no parole in the federal system. The court also ordered Bandelier to pay restitution to one victim, and Bandelier will have to register as a sex offender after release.

The case was investigated by HSI, the South Carolina ICAC Task Force at the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office, Lexington County Sheriff’s Department, the New Mexico ICAC Task Force, and the Albuquerque, New Mexico Police Department.  Assistant United States Attorney Elliott B. Daniels prosecuted the case.

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. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit http://www.justice.gov/psc.