Hamilton — On Wednesday, Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced the arrests of 24 men and one male juvenile in the latest operation aimed at the possession and distribution of child pornography, including child rape videos.
Flanked by Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the State Police, and Deputy Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice, the Attorney General outlined the results of the collaborative effort dubbed Operation Ever Vigilant.
According to the New Jersey State Police, the Digital Technology Investigations Unit of the State Police began the investigation approximately three months ago by searching for New Jersey residents who were making child pornography, including child rape videos, available to others. These files show pre-pubescent boys and girls being sexually molested by being penetrated, or by being coerced into performing sexual acts on themselves, or others.
Working with law enforcement partners in the New Jersey Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, multi-agency teams swept across New Jersey between February 18 and 22 to make the majority of the arrests.
The agencies participating in Operation Ever Vigilant included the West Long Branch Police Department, and the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office. Prosecutors and Sheriff’s offices from 11 other counties took park, as did numerous police departments where the suspects were arrested, as well as the U.S. Postal Service.
Three of the suspects were from Monmouth County. All arrested as part of Operation Ever Vigilant were charged with 2nd Degree Distribution of Child Pornography and 4th Degree Possession of Child Pornography. County men arrested included Steven Anan, 52, Neptune City; Christopher Brondi, 57, Rumson; and Manuel Sanchez-Olivarez, 37, Red Bank.
New Jersey police say the charged defendants come from all walks of life, but each was found to be in possession of multiple sexually explicit videos of young children, which they had made available to others.
“Anyone who views and distributes child pornography – particularly the type of child rape videos targeted in this operation – puts himself in league with the predators who sexually assault children to create these videos,” said Attorney General Chiesa. “The children they watch being tortured are violated again by their actions, and these offenders may pose a danger to other children because of their predilections. We will remain ever vigilant to stop this predatory behavior against children.”
“This type of crime – committed against children, who obviously cannot defend themselves – commands forceful action from law enforcement,” said Elie Honig, Deputy Director of the Division of Criminal Justice. “The Division of Criminal Justice will continue to work with the State Police to arrest offenders who are involved in this exploitation, and to prosecute them to the full extent of the law.”
The charges stemming from Operation Ever Vigilant will be prosecuted by the Division of Criminal Justice.
Five of those arrested had direct contact with young children, including two defendants who are alleged to be regular babysitters. Another defendant is a registered sex offender. Another remains in jail on $100,000 cash bail. Police say a field preview of his digital storage media revealed hundreds of child pornography files.
Four of those arrested remain incarcerated on detainers for being in the country without legal status. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents assisted in the processing of these subjects.
These videos and images are passed back and forth among users through emails and by way of file sharing networks. The networks operate the same way as websites used for privately sharing music or movies. Those in possession of the illegal images often make them available on computers that they control for others to download.
In addition to videos involving child abuse, detectives also say they discovered disturbing sexually explicit videos portraying necrophilia and bestiality during the searches.
Operation Ever Vigilant integrated more than 50 troopers, agents, detectives and officers from dozens of law enforcement agencies. The task force executed a total of 25 search warrants in 25 different towns across the state.
All of the warrant entries were made by the NJSP T.E.A.M.S. Unit, which is a tactical operations group similar to SWAT. The affiant for the search and arrest warrants was Detective Chris Camm of the State Police Digital Technology Investigations Unit.
The Evidence Management Unit helped catalog the large amount of mostly computer-related evidence. All of the investigations are still considered ongoing since computer media seized as evidence have been turned over to the New Jersey Regional Computer Forensic Laboratory (RCFL) for a thorough examination. This lab, located in the Technical Center in Hamilton, is a partnership with the FBI and is staffed with personnel from several different agencies including the NJSP. The RCFL works on computer evidence from New Jersey and surrounding states.