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Feds Charge Dozens In NYC Area In Child Porn Case

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Federal authorities have charged 71 people in the New York City area in what officials called one of the largest-ever roundups locally of people who anonymously trade child porn online.

The investigation, dubbed Operation Caireen, targeted people who used computer file-sharing programs to exchange videos and photos of children having sex.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in New York led the investigation with help from the NYPD and other agencies.

The suspects were rounded up across New York City,  New Jersey and other areas around the Tri-State over the past month.

Authorities said the defendants include an NYPD police officer, a paramedic, a nurse, a Brooklyn rabbi and a Boy Scout leader, among others.

“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 Hayes of ICE’s New York office. “Clearly, this criminal activity has reached epidemic proportions.”

As 1010 WINS’ Holli Haerr reported, Hayes said these are not people you would typically think would be child predators.

“It certainly changes what we used to believe as the type of person who would commit this crime,” Hayes said.

One of the defendants had been previously convicted of sexually abusing a child, authorities said. Another is charged with producing and distributing child pornography involving her own young son, WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported.

“The individuals identified today allegedly utilized the Internet to possess, distribute and promote horrific acts against defenseless victims,” Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said. “The indictments represent a strong collaborative effort between law enforcement partners, sending the message to sexual predators that abuse against children is beyond reproach and violators will be vigorously sought and brought to justice.”

“These are real children who have been abused, victimized and videotaped for an unfortunately large and twisted population,” Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson told CBS 2’s Tony Aiello.

Authorities said some of the defendants had access to young children, though there were no reports of abuse.

The Boy Scout leader, Suffern resident Jonathan Silber, also coached a youth baseball team, authorities said. The rabbi, Samuel Waldman, home-schooled his children and others, authorities said.

Other high-profile arrests included Kenneth Gardner, a registered nurse at Westchester County Medical Center; Eduardo Salcedo Urzola, of Brooklyn, who was working as an au pair; Aaron Young, a paramedic from Queens; and Yong Wu, an NYPD cop who was arrested at his home last month in Ozone Park.

Wu has been suspended by the NYPD. Authorities said Wu was sharing at least 60 files of interest.

The investigation also resulted in the seizure of nearly 600 desktop and laptop computers, tablets, smartphones and other devices containing a total of 175 terabytes of storage.

Authorities said 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.

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.

In all, six suspects were arrested in Manhattan, seven in the Bronx, 17 in Brooklyn, 23 in Queens, six on Staten Island, two in Putnam County, one in Sullivan County, one in Rockland County, one in Dutchess County, four in Nassau County, two in Westchester County and one in New Jersey.

Authorities decided to launch the operation after the arrest in January of the former police chief of 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.”

He is free on a $50,000 bond, but is in home detention with electronic monitoring. He has been barred from the Internet and ordered not to associate with children.

Fanelli was suspended from the police chief post when he was arrested. He later resigned.

Due to the sheer number of defendants, some will be prosecuted in state court, where some argue penalties for convicted offenders need to be strengthened, Aiello reported.

“The conduct, the prison sentence with the aggravating factors of the crime is not elevated whether one possesses one image or a thousand. That’s simply a law that makes absolutely no sense,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.

Vance and other DA’s are lobbying for tougher state penalties.

Homeland Security investigators said there will be more arrests.

Some of the child porn imagery was produced a decade or more ago. Others are more recent, including the young son of one of the suspects, Aiello reported.

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