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Child Exploitation
07/26/2012

Shasta County man arrested on charges stemming from international child pornography probe

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A Shasta County, Calif., man made his initial appearance in federal court Thursday afternoon following his arrest on criminal charges stemming from a far-reaching international child pornography probe that has resulted in numerous arrests worldwide. He was ordered held without bail.

Jason Scarcello, 42, of Anderson, Calif., was taken into custody Wednesday morning at his home by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Scarcello was arrested on probable cause after HSI special agents executed a federal search warrant at his residence and discovered computers and computer storage devices containing sexually explicit images and videos of children.

According to the search warrant affidavit, suspicions about Scarcello first arose after investigators determined he had engaged in computer chats with another suspect previously charged in the case, Michael Arnett. From August 2010 through March 2012, Scarcello and Arnett allegedly discussed in computer chats the abduction, torture, murder and cannibalism of child victims.

“The images and other details we've uncovered during the course of this far-reaching probe are, without question, some of the most profoundly disturbing evidence we've ever encountered in a child sexual exploitation case,” said Clark Settles, special agent in charge for HSI San Francisco. “We are still aggressively investigating whether any of the suspects ever actually acted on their unspeakable dialogues and we urge the public to contact HSI or local authorities if they have any information that may be relevant to our efforts.”

Today's charges are part of Operation Holitna, an ongoing HSI-led investigation that originated in Boston. In 2010, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts and HSI Boston arrested Robert Diduca on child pornography production charges. He was convicted and subsequently sentenced in June 2012. Forensic analysis of Diduca's computer led investigators to the Netherlands where a Dutch national was arrested and charged with production, distribution and possession of child pornography, as well as the sexual assault of 87 minors. Since that time, a worldwide network of offenders has been, and continues to be, unraveled, including today's defendant. Defendants and victims continue to be identified around the world. To date, more than 140 children have been rescued and 42 perpetrators arrested worldwide – including Scarcello – as a result of Operation Holitna.

This case is also the result of HSI's Operation Predator, a nationwide initiative to identify, investigate and arrest those who sexually exploit children, and the Department of Justice's Project Safe Childhood, which was launched to increase federal prosecution of child sex predators, and to reduce the number of Internet crimes against children including child pornography trafficking.

As part of Operation Predator, HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423 or its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.

As a part of Project Safe Childhood, the U.S. Attorney's Office has teamed with state and local agencies and organizations to increase law enforcement presence on the Internet, and to educate the public about safe Internet use, thereby reducing the risk that children might fall prey to online sexual predators. For additional information on the Project Safe Childhood, please go to www.projectsafechildhood.gov or call the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of California and ask to speak with the Project Safe Childhood coordinator.