NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two police officers, a Little League coach, and a mother were among 71 people arrested across the New York City-area in the largest-ever roundup of people who share child pornography online, federal and local law enforcement said Wednesday.
The 70 men and one woman came from all five boroughs of New York City and the surrounding suburbs, including New Jersey and Long Island, and range in age from their 20s to 50s, authorities said.
The investigation was led by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, whose agents identified an online network sharing child pornography, said Special Agent James Hayes.
“Many of the defendants are in fact educated and successful in their professional and private lives,” Hayes told reporters. “We can no longer assume that the only people who would stoop to prey on children are unemployed drifters.”
Among those charged was a paramedic, two nurses, an airline pilot, an au pair, a person previously convicted of child sexual abuse, a New York City police officer and a mother accused of producing pornography involving her own child.
Several of the individuals have young children at home, Hayes said.
Those arrested face a battery of state and federal charges, including distributing, producing and possessing child pornography.
Authorities became aware of the file-sharing ring after the January arrest of Brian Fanelli, a former police chief in Mount Pleasant, 24 miles north of New York City and the March arrest of a Brooklyn rabbi, Samuel Waldman, on child pornography charges.
Both men’s computers were linked to a peer-to-peer network that allowed users to share caches of child pornography while easily importing materials from other computers linked on the network, authorities said.
Both men have pleaded not guilty.
With the help of the New York City Police Department, investigators “surreptitiously” connected to the peer-to-peer network, which at times had up to 3,000 people searching for child pornography, Hayes said.
During the execution of nearly 90 search warrants, agents seized 600 desktop and laptop computers, tablets, phones, thumb drives and hard drives containing tens of thousands of images and videos.
Hayes said the investigation was just beginning. “We hope this sends the message to predators that we are going to find them,” he said.
Those arrested in the sweep face between seven and 25 years in prison if convicted.
Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Scott Malone, Bernadette Baum and Lisa Shumaker