Federal prosecutors want a former foster parent for Children and Youth agencies in Cambria and other counties to spend 30 years in federal prison for drugging young boys whom the state had placed in his care and filming himself molesting them as they slept.
Ronald Oshensky Jr., 43, of Johnstown, will be sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court for conduct that occurred over many years in his Johnstown home.
He had pleaded guilty in the summer to one count of producing child porn, but the underlying facts are among the most egregious seen in recent years in Western Pennsylvania.
The minimum term is 15 years, but the U.S. attorney’s office is asking for twice that, plus a lifetime of probation if and when Oshensky gets out.
Oshensky’s lawyer, Chris Brown, is asking for a little more than 24 years. Considering that both of Oshensky’s parents died in their 60s, there’s a fair chance he will die behind bars either way.
Oshensky had been approved as a foster parent for CYS agencies in several southwestern Pennsylvania counties from 2009 to 2016.
He took in more than 20 children over that time because their own parents were drug addicts or had abused or neglected their kids.
Oshensky preyed on their misery and added to it.
“To outsiders in Johnstown passing by Mr. Oshensky’s quiet Birch Ave. home, it appeared as if Mr. Oshensky, at great personal sacrifice, provided much needed care and sanctuary to abused and neglected children born into dangerous and hostile environments,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Arnold Bernard. “However, inside the residence, something much more sinister occurred.”
What had been happening in that house first came to light in October 2017 when an 11-year-old boy in Oshensky’s custody — whom Oshensky later adopted — told police that his foster father had been molesting him since he was 6. Police questioned Oshensky, and he lied. Officers didn’t have enough evidence for a case.
But when he failed a polygraph as part of a CYS sex abuse program, he confessed to fondling the boy and performing oral sex on him.
Oshensky was charged in Cambria County court with indecent assault but posted bond and got out.
One of Oshensky’s former foster children, now an adult and living with him, then found a VHS tape in his bedroom trash can and gave it to Oshensky’s sister. She found that the tape showed Oshensky sexually abusing a young boy. The sister called the Johnstown police, who searched Oshensky’s house and charged him with filming sex with a minor, a state crime.
The local district attorney consulted with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the case became federal. Agents learned that Oshensky kept boxes of videotapes in the attic, which hadn’t been searched by the Johnstown cops.
HSI obtained a federal search warrant and found the tapes, one of which contained clips of Oshensky molesting sleeping boys. Between the two videotapes, agents determined that he had molested seven boys, ages 3 through 8.
HSI learned through CYS records that Oshensky provided care specifically for prepubescent boys, likely indicating his “preferred type of children” for molestation, Bernard said. Child molesters often have specific preferences for victims within a certain age range.
The HSI agents also discovered through interviews that Oshensky gave melatonin to the children in his care to help them sleep. None of the children in the video clips knew they had been abused because they’d been asleep
The facts of the case “paint a terrifying picture of predatory paraphilic behavior the full scope of which may never be known,” Bernard said.
He said the pattern of abuse by Oshensky is “unparalleled” in his career as a prosecutor.
Brown, Oshensky’s lawyer, couldn’t offer up much of a defense. He agreed that the conduct is horrible, but he said at least Oshensky didn’t upload his videos to the internet or share them with anyone, as many child porn traffickers do. He kept them on VHS and not in digital format so they would remain private.
Brown also said Oshensky has struggled with mental health problems.
But Bernard argued that none of that makes a difference. Any mental issues he has are “far outweighed” by all the psychological damage he has caused children he was supposed to protect, the prosecutor said.
He also said that were it not for the bravery of Oshensky’s adopted son in coming forward in 2017, and the actions of Oshensky’s sister in exposing the videos, Oshensky would have continued to have access to children — supplied by county agencies — so he could molest them.
“There is little more to say than has already been said about Mr. Oshensky’s vile and horrific acts,” Bernard said.
U.S. District Judge Stephanie Haines will sentence Oshensky at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday in Johnstown.