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Child Exploitation

Former planning commissioner for Orange County community arrested on child pornography charges

Jerry J. Zechmeister

LAKE FOREST, Calif. – A former planning commissioner for the city of Lake Forest has been arrested on suspicion of possessing and distributing child pornography using file-sharing networks on his personal computer.

Jerry J. Zechmeister, 61, of Lake Forest, was taken into custody Thursday by investigators from the Orange County Child Exploitation Task Force (OCCETF), including special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and detectives from the Newport Beach Police Department.

Investigators executed a search warrant at Zechmeister’s residence in October 2013, seizing three computers and two external hard drives.  A forensic review of the electronic devices uncovered approximately 160 videos containing child pornography. By examining the dates when the files were originally created and most recently accessed, investigators believe the defendant had been viewing and sharing the child exploitation images for close to seven years.

The matter has been referred to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office for prosecution. Zechmeister’s arraignment is scheduled for 8:30 a.m., July 31, at the Newport Beach Harbor Justice Center.

“Each time an image of child pornography is viewed, that child is victimized again,” said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. “HSI will continue to work with its law enforcement partners to ensure that those who harm children in this way – no matter their position – receive the justice they deserve.”

“Child exploitation is a crime without regard for geographical boundaries,” said Captain Dale Johnson, Detective Division Commander for the Newport Beach Police Department. “Groups like the OCCETF allow personnel from multiple law enforcement agencies to work together to protect children in our local communities, and worldwide. The Newport Beach Police Department is honored to join other dedicated investigators throughout the country in a united goal to identify, investigate, and arrest child predators.”

The OCCETF is a collaborative law enforcement effort to identify, arrest and prosecute those involved in child sexual exploitation offenses, including child pornographers.The Task Force encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through ICE’s toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423.  Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a Task Force partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.