HomeAtl HubAtl Hub NewsOperation School's Out nets 14 in child porn sting

Operation School’s Out nets 14 in child porn sting

An operation law enforcement agencies called Operation School’s Out that focused on the online consumption of child pornography has resulted in the arrest of 14 Monmouth County residents.

The operation was carried out by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office Computer Crimes Unit and the Monmouth County Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force between July and August.

“As far as the defendants go … of the 14, they range in age from 18 to 69, they come from different walks of life … we have defendants who were grocery store clerks, factory and construction workers, professionals who were retired and even a college professor in New Jersey,” Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni reported during a press conference on Sept. 15.

“All of the individuals who were arrested are residents of Monmouth County and of these individuals, even though they may come from various walks of life, they all share one common thing and that is the alleged desire to watch children be brutally assaulted and sexually abused in these child porn images,” Gramiccioni said.

According to the prosecutor, all 14 men who were arrested have been charged with possession of child pornography images (a third degree offense). Eight of the 14 have also been charged with distribution of child pornography under the statute of endangering the welfare of a child (a second degree offense).

“By engaging in this type of conduct, every time somebody distributes or possesses one of these images, they are not only passing it on to another person who is allegedly committing a crime, what they are doing is perpetuating the abuse of the young child who is being abused in those pictures and that is unacceptable and uncalled for, and that is what brings us here today because we are here to police that conduct,” Gramiccioni said.

According to the prosecutor, the images involved in Operation School’s Out depict children from infancy through their young teenage years being “brutally” sexually assaulted and exploited.

“Sadly, these images are a permanent record of the child’s abuse and it continues to get recirculated throughout the internet … and these defendants are alleged to contribute to that circulation … Every time this happens, these children not only suffer the abuse that is depicted in the images or videos, but every time it is recycled or recirculated they get re-traumatized and there is no pulling it back,” he said.

Assisting the prosecutor’s office in Operation School’s Out were members of the New Jersey State Police Digital Technology Investigations Unit, the New Jersey Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory, the New Jersey ICAC Task Force, Homeland Security Investigations, the FBI and the New Jersey State Parole Board.

Other agencies that provided assistance during Operation School’s Out were the police departments in Asbury Park, Belmar, Eatontown, Freehold Township, Hazlet, Holmdel, Howell, Keansburg, Keyport, Long Branch, Manalapan, Marlboro, Middletown, Neptune Township, Ocean Township, Red Bank, Sea Bright, Tinton Falls and Wall Township.

“I want everyone to realize we are out there actively patrolling and pursuing people who do this. We are out there performing undercover investigations and we continue to do that 24/7, so some of the arrests are the product of that as well,” Gramiccioni said.

Special Agent Tim Gallagher, who directs the FBI office in New Jersey, thanked the prosecutor for his partnership and leadership. He said the operation “highlights the diverse nature of the subjects we go after” as well as “the increasing sophistication of the threat they pose.”

“More importantly, however, it highlights the teamwork of (the task force) … the bad guys have a network and we have a network, too. Their network does not respect county boundaries, state boundaries or international boundaries, so neither does ours. We have folks from everywhere and we team up to work these cases and we will chase these predators to the far reaches of the dark net and the globe,” Gallagher said.

“Sadly, each year, countless children around the world fall prey to sexual predators,” said Mike McCarthy, the deputy special agent in charge of the HSI Newark field office.

“These young victims are left with permanent psychological, emotional and physical scars. When a child predator records their sexual abuse and uploads that video to the internet it lives forever, re-victimizing that innocent child over and over again. It is vital that we get these child predators off our streets,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy said the 14 men who were arrested look like ordinary members of the public, but he said that behind closed doors and in front of their computer screen they are online child sexual predators.

“These arrests serve as a warning to sexual predators that they are not anonymous on the internet, they are not safe to pursue children online. HSI is taking an increasingly tough stance against these cyber predators. With the help of our international, federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, through initiatives like Operation School’s Out, we are determined to find these individuals and bring them to justice,” McCarthy said.

Lt. John Pizzuro, the commander of the New Jersey ICAC, thanked the detectives who conducted the investigations for their work in the field that make operations like Operation School’s Out possible.

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