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Child Exploitation

Retired New Mexico teacher pleads guilty to federal child pornography charge

ALBUQUERQUE – A retired New Mexico teacher pleaded guilty Tuesday to possessing child pornography under a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Mexico.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) offices in Albuquerque and Greeley, Colo.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Joseph F. Zinkiewicz, 75, of Raton, N.M., will be sentenced to 10 years in federal prison to be followed by a supervised release term to be determined by the court. He must also register as a sex offender after he completes his prison sentence. Zinkiewicz has been in federal custody since his April arrest; he remains detained pending his sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.

Zinkiewicz was arrested on a criminal complaint that alleges that he distributed, received and possessed child pornography in Colfax County, N.M., between Oct. 14, 2011 and April 4, 2012. On June 12, Zinkiewicz was indicted and charged with three counts of distributing child pornography, one count of receiving child pornography, and two counts of possessing child pornography.

U.S. Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales said that Zinkiewicz was arrested as the result of an investigation that initially targeted a suspect in Colorado. During the investigation, an HSI special agent acting in an undercover capacity communicated with the Colorado suspect and learned that the suspect was a member of a group that used email accounts to distribute and receive child pornography. In November 2011, after the undercover special agent obtained a hard drive containing thousands of child pornography images and videos from the Colorado suspect, special agents executed a search warrant on the email account used by the Colorado suspect and identified the email accounts of individuals, including Zinkiewicz, who shared child pornography with the Colorado suspect.

Beginning in January and continuing until March 5, 2012, the undercover special agent used the email account belonging to the Colorado suspect to communicate with Zinkiewicz through his email account. During these communications, Zinkiewicz sent a series of emails that included child pornography images and videos to the undercover special agent. On April 4, law enforcement officers executed a federal search warrant at Zinkiewicz's residence in Raton, and seized computers and computer media, in addition to photographs and DVDs that contained child pornography.

Zinkiewicz pleaded guilty Oct. 23 to Count 6 of the indictment, charging him with possessing child pornography. In his plea agreement, Zinkiewicz admitted he voluntarily participated in a recorded interview while the search warrant was executed at this residence. At the time he told special agents that he had been looking at child pornography for 10 to 15 years. He also admitted using his email account to exchange child pornography with others on the Internet.

Zinkiewicz also acknowledged that a forensic examination of his computer and computer-related media revealed that they contained nine videos and more than 1,000 images of child pornography, including 28 images of children who have been identified as child pornography victims and have been rescued.

Court records reflect that Zinkiewicz was subject to enhanced penalties because he previously has been convicted of a child pornography offense. Records reveal that Zinkiewicz was convicted of distributing child pornography in the Superior Court of the State of New Jersey in January 2002.

HSI was assisted with this investigation by the New Mexico State Police and the Eighth Judicial District Attorney's Office.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Charlyn E. Rees, District of New Mexico, is prosecuting this case.

This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE 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, at 1-800-843-5678.