NEW YORK — A senior official from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) announced Wednesday the arrest of 71 individuals for crimes involving the sexual exploitation of children in Operation Caireen, the largest-ever enforcement operation in New York targeting predators who possess, produce or distribute sexually explicit images of children.
Special Agent in Charge James T. Hayes, Jr., head of the HSI New York office, made the announcement in Manhattan with Queens County District Attorney Richard A. Brown, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth P. Thompson, Richmond County District Attorney Daniel M. Donovan, Jr., New York City Police Department Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce, Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division for the Eastern District of New York Lisa Kramer, Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division for the Southern District of New York Joan Loughnane, Special Agent in Charge for the United States Coast Guard Investigative Service Otis E. Harris, Jr., Special Agent in Charge for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Thomas J. Cannon, Assistant Special Agent in Charge for the United States Secret Service Michael Seremetis, Chief of the General Crimes Section for the Eastern District of New York Patrick Sinclair, Chief of the Rockland County Sheriff's Office William Barbera, and Putnam County District Attorney's Office Senior Investigator Henry Lopez.
As part of Operation Caireen, which began April 4 and ran until May 15, HSI special agents, New York City Police Department detectives and other law enforcement partners surreptitiously infiltrated peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing networks to identify users in the New York City metropolitan area who sought to acquire or distribute known or suspected images and videos of children engaged in sexually explicit activities. Throughout the course of the operation, investigators identified nearly 150 distinct Internet Protocol addresses actively involved in trading sexually explicit images of children registered to users in the New York City metropolitan area. In addition to the 71 arrests, investigators lawfully seized nearly 600 computing devices during the execution of 87 search warrants, including desktop and laptop computers, tablets, smartphones and thumb drives containing more than 175 terabytes of data that includes tens of thousands of sexually explicit images and videos of children. Some of the defendants arrested possessed libraries of sexually explicit images and videos of children numbering in the thousands.
One of the defendants had been previously convicted of sexually abusing a 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.
Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said, "The individuals identified today allegedly utilized the Internet to possess, distribute and promote horrific acts against defenseless victims. 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."
"The law enforcement community is committed to eliminating the horrific market for child pornography, one defendant at a time," said U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch, Eastern District of New York. "The arrests and seizures announced today send an unequivocal message to those who engage in trading child pornography – if you exploit our children, and their abuse, you will be investigated and prosecuted to the full extent of the law."
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: "Crimes involving the exploitation of children are particularly disturbing because they victimize the most vulnerable members of our society. This includes the possession and distribution of images of child pornography. Such images are not merely photos or videos; they are evidence of the physical and psychological abuse of children. Today's announcement shows the commitment of federal and state prosecutors and investigators to protect children from exploitation."
Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said, "My office is committed to the vigorous prosecution of those who sexually exploit children through the use of the Internet and peer-to-peer networks. It must be remembered that the images involved in these cases are of real children being sexually abused and that each time an image is viewed, traded, printed or downloaded, the child in that image is being victimized again."
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., said: "Images of child sexual assault capture real crimes being committed against real children. Each time that one of these recordings of a violent sexual assault is downloaded and viewed by a stranger over the Internet, that child is being victimized all over again. Crimes against children are unforgivable, especially those perpetrated by individuals in positions of trust. I thank our partners in law enforcement for their commitment to stopping the abuse of children."
Kings County District Attorney Kenneth P. Thompson said, "This case underscores the crucial importance of Internet surveillance initiatives by law enforcement to protect children from sexual predators. Each of these defendants – five of whom presently have cases pending in Kings County – is responsible for re-victimizing the children who appear in these despicable videos each time they view or share the files. These are real children whose abuse and victimization has been videotaped for the entertainment of an unfortunately large population of twisted individuals. I commend Homeland Security Investigations for initiating Operation Caireen."
Richmond County District Attorney Daniel M. Donovan, Jr., said, "The confiscated videos are nothing more than sadomasochistic snuff films showcasing a defenseless child – be they an infant, a toddler or a teen – being repeatedly raped and/or sexually assaulted. These are videotaped crime scenes watched by predators lurking in the shadows of the Internet. I want to thank my assistant, Ann Thompson, and the agents of ICE-Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) for bringing these crimes to light and the defendants to justice."
"Our success in this case and other similar investigations is a result of our close work with our law enforcement partners," said Brian Swain, acting special agent in charge, United States Secret Service, New York Field Office. "The Secret Service worked closely with HSI, the NYPD, and other law enforcement partners to share information and resources that ultimately led to the arrest of 71 individuals. This case demonstrates there is no such thing as anonymity for those engaging in child exploitation and unlawful acts."
"The Department of Homeland Security is asking for the public to be watchful, to help identify those individuals responsible for child pornography, and we're counting on those with information to come forward," said Otis E. Harris Jr., special agent in charge of the Coast Guard Investigative Service, New York Field Office. "No bit of information, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is too small. Each piece moves us forward toward justice and disrupting the crime of child pornography. It is extremely important to contact authorities with any information regarding child pornography."
"We applaud the efforts of HSI New York for the outstanding results of Operation Caireen," said John Ryan, president and CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. "The success of this operation highlights the importance of collaboration between law enforcement agencies on large-scale investigations. Their tireless work helps ensure that the most vulnerable in our society – our children – can be safer."
Arrests predicating Operation Caireen:
- On January 23, HSI agents arrested Brian Fanelli, chief of the Mount Pleasant Police Department in Valhalla, New York. Fanelli has been charged with Federal child pornography violations in the Southern District of New York.
- On March 5, HSI agents arrested Samuel Waldman, a rabbi and an instructor of Judaic studies, at his residence in Brooklyn. Waldman has been charged with possession of child pornography in the Southern District of New York. While utilizing the P2P file sharing system, agents identified Waldman's IP address as one that offered for dissemination videos of child pornography.
High profile arrests during Operation Caireen:
- On April 8, Kenneth Gardner, a registered nurse at Westchester County Medical Center, was arrested at his residence in Astoria and charged with violations of New York State Penal Law 263.15, promoting a sex performance of a child under age 17; 263.11, possessing an obscene sexual performance by a child; and 263.16, possessing a sexual performance by a child.
- On April 17, Eduardo Salcedo Urzola, who was working as an au pair, was arrested at his residence in Brooklyn and charged with possession of child pornography under federal law. This arrest followed the execution of a search warrant issued by a U.S. magistrate judge in the Eastern District of New York. While utilizing the P2P file sharing system, agents identified an IP address at a residence associated with Salcedo Urzola's that made known images and/or movies of child pornography available for distribution.
- On April 28, Aaron Young, a paramedic, was arrested at his residence in Queens and charged under New York State law with possession of child pornography. This arrest followed the execution of a state search warrant issued by a judge in Queens County. While utilizing the P2P file sharing system, agents identified an IP address at Young's residence that made known images and/or movies of child pornography available for distribution.
- On April 28, Yong Wu, a police officer, was arrested at his residence in Ozone Park and charged with possession of child pornography under state law. This arrest followed the execution of a search warrant issued by a judge in Queens County. While utilizing the P2P file sharing system, agents identified an IP address at Wu's residence that made known images and/or movies of child pornography available for distribution.
- On May 9, Jonathan Silber, a Boy Scout den leader and Little League baseball coach, was arrested at his residence in Suffern and charged under New York state law with possession of child pornography. This arrest followed the execution of a state search warrant issued by a judge in Rockland County. While utilizing the P2P file sharing system, agents identified an IP address connected to Silber that made known images and/or movies of child pornography available for distribution.
SAC Hayes thanked the United States Attorney's Offices for the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York; the District Attorney's Offices in Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Manhattan, and the Bronx, New York; the District Attorney's offices in Putnam, Dutchess, Sullivan, and Rockland counties in New York and the Hunterdon County prosecutor's office in New Jersey for their exceptional legal analysis and for prosecuting the charges. SAC Hayes thanked the New York City Police Department, United States Secret Service, United States Coast Guard Investigative Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, New York State Police, the Dutchess and Rockland County sheriff's offices, and the police departments in Kent, Spring Valley, Carmel, Haverstraw and Suffern.
SAC Hayes also thanked HSI New York Deputy Special Agents in Charge Glenn Sorge and Gabriel Garcia; Assistant Special Agents in Charge Michael Szrama, Joseph LeStrange and Michael Buckley; Group Supervisors Anthony Decrescenzo, Regan Madonia, Chris McClellan, and John Mirandona, Jr.; and the men and women assigned to the HSI New York Child Exploitation, Computer Forensics and Special Investigations units for their diligent and thorough investigative work and their commitment to the Homeland Security mission.
Arrests by county:
- Manhattan 6
- Bronx 7
- Brooklyn 17
- Queens 23
- Staten Island 6
- New Jersey (Hunterdon) 1
- Putnam 2
- Sullivan 1
- Rockland 1
- Duchess 1
- Nassau 4
- Westchester 2