CAMDEN, N.J. — A New Jersey man pleaded guilty Monday to using a file sharing network to distribute images and videos of child pornography over the Internet from his home computer. The guilty plea resulted from an investigation initiated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The New Jersey State Police and Attorney General's Division of Criminal Justice collaborated in the investigation.
Aaron N. Debarardnis, 26, of Lower Township, pleaded guilty to second-degree distribution of child pornography before Superior Court Judge Michael J. Kassel in Camden County. The state will recommend he be sentenced to three years in prison.
Debarardnis was arrested July 26, 2012, by HSI special agents, the New Jersey State Police and the Division of Criminal Justice. On two occasions, once in August 2011 and again in September 2011, HSI special agents downloaded computer files of child pornography traced to a computer in Debarardnis' mobile home. Debarardnis, using peer-to-peer file sharing software, made more than 1,000 files of child pornography available for users to download from a designated "shared folder" on his computer. In October 2011, HSI special agents approached Debarardnis at his residence and seized two computers with his consent. A forensic examination of the computers revealed hundreds of videos and thousands of images of child pornography.
"Child predators like Debarardnis are on notice: HSI will not allow you to systematically prey on our nation's children," said Andrew McLees, special agent in charge of HSI Newark. "As today's sentence demonstrates, these are serious crimes with serious consequences. If you're engaged in this illegal, abusive activity, you will be arrested and brought to justice."
"We are delivering a wake-up call to those who think they can hide in their homes and perpetuate terrible crimes against children with impunity," said Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman. "We are out there on the Internet, and we are going to find you, arrest you and put you behind bars."
"Everyone who shares child pornography online shares responsibility for motivating those who sexually abuse children to create these repulsive materials," said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. "We are devoting additional resources to detecting and prosecuting these crimes."
Debarardnis is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 10, 2014.
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. In fiscal year 2013, more than 2,000 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative.
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.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.