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May 24, 2023Los Angeles, CA, United StatesChild Exploitation

HSI investigation of former Navy SEAL results in guilty verdict for production of child pornography

LOS ANGELES — A federal jury convicted a Southern California man and former Navy SEAL May 19 of producing child sexual abuse material and surreptitiously filming nude minor victims with hidden cameras in a residential setting.

Robert Quido Stella, 50, was found guilty of three counts of producing child pornography, each of which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years and a maximum of 30 years in federal prison.

Following a tip, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents confirmed that Stella frequented a site on the dark web featuring child sexual abuse material and had collections of that type of material on a computer and two external hard drives in his home.

HSI agents also located hidden cameras Stella had placed in his home and used to film minor victims as they undressed to shower and use the bathroom. Further review found approximately 17 videos and over 100 screenshots believed to have come from the hidden filming equipment.

A federal grand jury indicted Stella on July 27, 2021, charging him with the three counts of production of child pornography, one count of access with intent to view child pornography for logging on to the website featuring child sexual abuse material, and two counts of possession of child pornography. Stella pleaded guilty to access with intent to view child pornography and two counts possession of child pornography, each of which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison and a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years.

After a four-day trial, a federal jury convicted Stella of the three counts of production of child pornography. United States District Judge George H. Wu scheduled a sentencing hearing on all six counts for Aug. 24. Stella remains in custody.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Catharine A. Richmond and Lyndsi C. Allsop of the Violent and Organized Crime Section are prosecuting this case.

Members of the public are urged to report suspected instances of child sex trafficking through the HSI Tip Line at 866-DHS-2423 (866-347-2423). The HSI Tip Line is manned 24 hours a day.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

Learn more about HSI’s mission to eradicate child exploitation in your community on Twitter @HSILosAngeles.

Updated: 05/25/2023