AFRICANGLOBE – A police chief, a rabbi and a Boy Scout leader are among at least 70 men and one woman arrested on charges of trading in child pornography in what officials say is one of the largest-ever roundups in the New York City area.
The arrests were part of a five-week federal investigation that resulted in the seizure of nearly 600 desktop and laptop computers, tablets, smartphones and other devices containing a total of 175 terabytes of storage, federal officials said.
Investigators from Immigration Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations planned to announce the arrests at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
Officials said the defendants chatted online and shared images using peer-to-peer file sharing programs. One defendant led to another who led to others.
This case started with the arrest in January of the former police chief of suburban Mount Pleasant, Brian Fanelli. He pleaded not guilty this week to federal charges of knowingly receiving and distributing child pornography. Court papers allege that Fanelli told investigators he began looking at child porn as research before it grew into a “personal interest.”
The expansion of the “Dark Web,” where pedophiles hide using websites that encrypt their computers’ identifying information, has fueled an explosion of child pornography.
Consuming child porn “is not something that is just done by unemployed drifters who live in their parent’s basement,” said James Hayes, in ICE’s New York office. “If this operation does anything, it puts the lie to the belief that the people who do this are not productive members of society.”
Some of the defendants had access to young children, though there were no reports of abuse, HSI officials said. The Boy Scout leader also coached a youth baseball team. The rabbi home-schooled his children and others. Another person used hidden cameras to secretly film his children’s friends.
Agents are still examining the devices to locate and catalog evidence — an arduous task that could result in more arrests, according to reports. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children also will use its analysts to review the images to see whether it can identify children using databases of known victims.
“We refer to each of these images as a crime scene photo because that’s exactly what they are,” John Ryan, the organization’s chief executive officer, told reporters.
By: Marisol Bello
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