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Wisconsin man arrested for producing AI-generated images of minors


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Wisconsin man arrested for producing AI-generated images of minors


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A Wisconsin man was arrested last week on criminal charges related to his alleged production, distribution, and possession of AI-generated images of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct and his transfer of similar sexually explicit AI-generated images to a minor, according to authorities.

“Technology may change, but our commitment to protecting children will not,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco. “The Justice Department will aggressively pursue those who produce and distribute child sexual abuse material—or CSAM—no matter how that material was created. Put simply, CSAM generated by AI is still CSAM, and we will hold accountable those who exploit AI to create obscene, abusive, and increasingly photorealistic images of children.”

According to court documents, Steven Anderegg, 42, of Holmen, allegedly used a text-to-image generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) model called Stable Diffusion to create thousands of realistic images of minors.

Evidence recovered from Anderegg’s electronic devices revealed that he generated these images using specific, sexually explicit text prompts related to minors, which he then stored on his computer.

“As alleged, Steven Anderegg used AI to produce thousands of illicit images of prepubescent minors, and even sent sexually explicit AI-generated images to a minor,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

“Today’s announcement sends a clear message: using AI to produce sexually explicit depictions of children is illegal, and the Justice Department will not hesitate to hold accountable those who possess, produce, or distribute AI-generated child sexual abuse material,” Argentieri added.

Additionally, Anderegg allegedly communicated with a 15-year-old boy and described how he used Stable Diffusion to convert his text prompts into images of minors. Anderegg also allegedly used Instagram direct message to send the boy several GenAI images of minors lasciviously displaying their genitals. Anderegg came to the attention of law enforcement through a CyberTip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) after Instagram reported Anderegg’s account to NCMEC for distributing these images.

Anderegg remains in federal custody pending a detention hearing scheduled for May 22.

A federal grand jury in the Western District of Wisconsin returned an indictment on May 15 charging Anderegg with producing, distributing, and possessing obscene visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct and transferring obscene material to a minor under the age of 16. If convicted of all four counts alleged in the indictment, he faces a total statutory maximum penalty of 70 years in prison and a mandatory minimum of five years in prison.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation is investigating the case.

Trial Attorney William G. Clayman of the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) is prosecuting the case with assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Wisconsin.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse, launched in May 2006 by the Justice Department.  Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and CEOS, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.


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