NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The police chief of a Westchester County town has been arrested on child pornography charges.
Mount Pleasant Police Chief Brian Fanelli, 54, was taken into custody by Homeland Security agents at his home in Mahopac on Thursday morning.
Fanelli, who joined the department in 1981, has been chief of police in Mount Pleasant for just two months.
“Given the allegations, this case is particularly disturbing and sad,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Thursday. “A senior law enforcement officer, sworn to uphold the law, stands accused of breaking the law. And it is the law designed to protect the youngest and most vulnerable of our population from vile exploitation.”
According to the allegations in the criminal complaint filed Thursday in White Plains federal court, Fanelli used a peer-to-peer file-sharing program to download more than 120 files containing images and videos believed to be child pornography from as early as October 2013, through in or about January 2014.
The complaint also states Fanelli made those files available to other online users through his computer’s shared folder on the program.
On three occasions, undercover DHS agents using the peer-to-peer network downloaded from Fanelli’s computer files containing images and videos believed to contain child pornography, according to the complaint.
According to the complaint, Fanelli voluntarily told DHS agents that he has taught sexual-abuse-awareness classes to elementary and middle school-age students for more than a year, and that approximately one year ago, he began viewing child pornography from his home using the network – at first as research for the classes he was teaching — but shortly thereafter for personal interest.
Fanelli was arraigned Thursday evening on charges of possession and distribution of child pornography. He faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
“Given his position in the law-enforcement community and the community at large, it is a significantly disturbing activity,” Special Agent in Charge James T. Hayes Jr. told 1010 WINS’ Al Jones.
CBS 2’s Lou Young reported that Fanelli was being released on $50,000 bond Thursday evening. A judge ordered him to home confinement with electronic monitoring. His computers and guns were confiscated, Young said.
Mount Pleasant Supervisor Joan Maybury said Fanelli has been suspended with pay in accordance with his contract. She said the town is cooperating with prosecutors in the investigation.
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