A rabbi, a little league coach, police officers, nurses and the mother of an infant are among more than 70 people arrested for allegedly sharing child pornography images and video online in what authorities are calling one of the largest local roundups of people who anonymously trade such images on the Internet, officials say. Gus Rosendale reports. (Published Wednesday, May 21, 2014)
A rabbi, a little league coach, police officers, nurses and the mother of an infant are among more than 70 people arrested for allegedly sharing child pornography images and video online in what authorities are calling one of the largest local roundups of people who anonymously trade such images on the Internet, officials say.
Authorities said the victims who were sexually exploited and photographed range in age from newborn to 17. In some videos, children were fondled. Others showed children being sexually assaulted by adults.
As part of the operation, authorities set up a website run by law enforcement that solicited illicit images of children. During the course of the five-week investigation, undercover Department of Homeland Security investigators along with NYPD detectives identified nearly 150 distinct IP addresses registered to people in the New York City area actively involved in trading sexually explicit images of children.
One defendant was already on bail following his arrest last year on charges he used the Internet to direct women to record sex acts with young children. Court papers allege he "indicated the last video he had downloaded and viewed depicted a mother sexually abusing her 3- or 4-year-old child."
Another is charged with producing and distributing child pornography involving her own young child.
Several of the defendants facing charges held positions of public trust, including two police officers, two registered nurses, a paramedic, an au pair, and an individual who served as both a den master with the Boy Scouts of America and a little league baseball coach. The rabbi home-schooled children.
Seventy-one suspects were arrested in total.
Authorities say advances in technology and computer capacity have allowed child-porn collectors to more easily amass vast troves of disturbing images and to exchange files with each other directly. In this case, the suspects allegedly used P2P software -- or peer-to-peer file-sharing services -- to share the images. Nearly 600 desktop and laptop computers, tablets, smartphones and other devices containing a total of 175 terabytes of storage were seized as part of the investigation.
"The sheer volume of confirmed and suspected instances of individuals engaging in the sexual exploitation of children identified through Operation Caireen is shocking and the professional backgrounds of many of the defendants is troubling," said James T. Hayes Jr., special agent in charge of HSI New York. "We can no longer assume that the only people who would stoop to prey on children are unemployed drifters."
Agents are still examining the devices to locate and catalog evidence -- an arduous task that could result in more arrests. 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,'' said John Ryan, the organization's chief executive officer.
Authorities launched the operation after the January arrest of the former police chief of suburban Mount Pleasant, Brian Fanelli, who 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."
Published at 7:52 AM EDT on May 21, 2014
Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York