Teacher, school bus driver among 16 charged in N.J. child porn sweep

A sweeping investigation into the online distribution of child pornography netted 16 New Jersey residents accused of trading gruesome images and videos depicting sexual abuse of children as young as nine months old, authorities said Wednesday.

The defendants came from all walks of life, law enforcement officials said.

A Vineland elementary school teacher who ran the school’s drama club. A computer repair technician. A Sparta school bus driver accused of watching child porn on his breaks between runs. A supermarket employee who had nearly 300 graphic files on his computer. A 17-year-old Hudson County high school student who allegedly traded illicit images for Amazon gift cards.

“They all share a depraved desire to see children being sexually exploited and, in the most horrific cases, raped,” acting Attorney General Robert Lougy said at a press conference held at the State Police Technology Complex in Hamilton.

“They are directly motivating and putting themselves in league with those who would commit such atrocities on our young children.”

All 16 defendants were charged with second-degree distribution of child pornography, which carries a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison, and third-degree possession of child pornography, which carries a sentence of three to five years in prison.

See the full list of those charged

The arrests came after investigators from the state Division of Criminal Justice and ICE Homeland Security Investigations teamed up for “Operation Safeguard,” spending months monitoring file-sharing networks known by police to be popular among those looking to download child porn online, authorities said.

Detectives scoured these networks, described as being similar to file-sharing services used to trade commercially available music and movies, searching for illicit images and tracing them back to individual users in New Jersey, the attorney general said.

Lougy said that by using file-sharing networks to access the pornography, they were effectively distributing the images as well.

“Anyone who believes that sharing or viewing this material is somehow a victimless crime is seriously mistaken.”
The trail led investigators to Thomas Guzzi Jr., a 36-year-old fifth grade teacher at the John H. Winslow Elementary School in Vineland, where he led the school’s drama club. Investigators say Guzzi had more than 100 files of child pornography on his personal computer.

Guzzi also faces invasion of privacy charges for allegedly hiding a tablet computer in a bathroom stall at the Broadway Theatre of Pitman, where he served as stage manager, and surreptitiously recording people using the toilet.

They also found Eugene Triston, 55, who drove elementary students in a school bus for the Sparta School District for nearly a year and was allegedly caught with more than two dozen child pornography files stored in a shared folder on his personal computer.

The high school student from Hudson County was not identified because he is being charged as a minor, authorities said. Attorneys for the accused could not immediately be reached.

The other defendants include a supermarket employee, a delivery man, an IT professional at an insurance company and a worker at a county garage, among others. A full list can be read here.

Lougy said none of the victims was believed to be from New Jersey and none of the defendants was accused of actual inappropriate physical contact with minors.

But, the attorney general added, “each time a new offender downloads or shares these videos in which a child is sexually assaulted, that child is revictimized in a very real way.”

Operation Safeguard Arrests 16 For Child Pornography
NJ State Division of Criminal Justice Director Elie Honig, center, talks about the NJ Division of Criminal Justice Computer Analysis and Technology Unit while with acting Attorney General Robert Lougy, left, and Detective Rich DaSilva who is one of 20 investigators working in the unit, look on.
Aristide Economopoulos

Acting on search warrants in February and March, police seized the computers of the accused, bringing the evidence to the Division of Criminal Justice’s new forensic computer lab in Hamilton. There, they uncovered hundreds more images and videos, including those that had allegedly been wiped from the machines, according to division Director Elie Honig.

The lab, just opened six months ago, was launched in response to a “shortage” of such facilities in New Jersey, part of the state’s push to fight internet crimes ranging from hacking and child pornography to the drug trade, Honig said.

“This cyber bureau was two people about three years ago, and now we’ve got about 20,” he said.

Source: http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2016/04/teacher_school_bus_driver_among_16_charged_in_nj_c.html