HARTFORD, Conn. - A former Plainville, Conn., middle school technology aide was sentenced Monday in federal court to 15 years in prison for manufacturing child pornography.
Jonathan Zahra, 27, of Plainville, was sentenced in a case investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and Plainville Police Department. After his prison term he will also serve 10 years of supervised release.
"Working with ICE HSI and many other investigative partners, the U.S. Attorney's Office is committed to protecting children from sexual exploitation, and removing sexual predators from the community," stated David B. Fein, U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut. "I want to commend the New Britain State's Attorney's Office and the Plainville Police Department for their critical assistance and cooperation during the course of this investigation."
"If you exploit children, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for your actions," stated Bruce M. Foucart, special agent in charge of ICE HSI. "This sentence serves as a warning to others who prey on children that ICE and its federal, state and local partners in law enforcement will remain relentless in identifying, investigating and arresting these individuals for their crimes."
According to court documents and statements, in March 2009, ICE HSI received information through its Cyber Crimes Center in Fairfax, Va., that an international investigation involving crimes against children had identified Zahra as possibly grooming minors and engaging in sexual contact with them. At the time, Zahra was a technology assistant at a Plainville middle school and a member of the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program in that town.
After receiving information from ICE HSI, the Plainville Police Department executed a search warrant at Zahra's residence on March 12, 2009, and seized numerous computer-related components and media. A forensic analysis of the seized items revealed sexually explicit photographs of a minor in Zahra's home. The investigation also revealed that Zahra took the photographs of the minor in 2008.
Zahra has been in state custody since his arrest on May 1, 2009. He pleaded guilty to one count of manufacturing child pornography.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Deborah R. Slater, District of Connecticut. The state case against Zahra is being prosecuted by the New Britain State's Attorney's Office.
This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders, and child sex traffickers.
ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity on its toll-free hotline, 1-866-DHS-2ICE, which is staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.