TRENTON, N.J. — An Atlantic County man pleaded guilty Monday to distributing child pornography on the internet. He is one of 28 defendants charged in two separate sweeps under Operation Predator Alert. The guilty plea follows an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice.
Juan Carlos Alvarez, 34, of Egg Harbor Township, pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree distribution of child pornography and third-degree possession of more than 100 files of child pornography before Superior Court Judge Bernard E. DeLury Jr.
“People like Alvarez, who distribute images of children engaging in sexual acts, need to be found and removed from our society,” said Andrew M. McLees, special agent in charge of HSI Newark. “Through partnerships with state and local law enforcement agencies, HSI will continue to vigorously investigate child exploitation cases like this one.”
“Our tough new child pornography statute provides for lengthy prison sentences, including mandatory periods of parole ineligibility, and we’re going to make maximum use of that law to put offenders like Alvarez behind bars,” said Acting Attorney General John Hoffman. “Those who share child pornography online put themselves in league with the child predators who torture and sexually exploit innocent children to create these vile materials. They deserve the harshest of penalties.”
“Through our ongoing partnership with ICE Homeland Security Investigations in Operation Predator Alert, we have rounded up 28 offenders who have victimized children by viewing them being sexually abused and who potentially pose a direct danger to children in our communities,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “These cases will remain a top priority for the Division of Criminal Justice.”
According to court documents, during Operation Predator Alert, HSI special agents monitored an online file-sharing network that is popular with offenders who download and trade child pornography. Using advanced technology, the agents searched for telltale digital “fingerprints” of known child pornography, as well as search terms used by those who download and share child pornography. Through these and other methods, they identified New Jersey residents who were downloading child pornography and making child pornography available to others in shared folders on their computers. HSI agents along with the Division of Criminal Justice, executed numerous search and arrest warrants.
The file-sharing networks used by offenders to distribute child pornography operate in the same manner as websites used for privately sharing music or movies. Those in possession of the illegal images can make them available on computers that they control for others to download. Because many of these videos and photos of child pornography keep recirculating, they result in the perpetual re-victimization of the children who were sexually assaulted or abused to produce them.
Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Alvarez be sentenced to five years in state prison, including two years, six months of parole ineligibility. He will be required to register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 3.
The New Jersey State Police and numerous local police departments, county prosecutors’ offices and county sheriffs’ offices provided assistance to the joint HSI and NJ Division of Criminal Justice investigation.
This investigation was conducted under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 10,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing 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, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.