Friday morning at 5:30 a.m. federal, state, county and local law enforcement executed the final search warrants in Operation Sentinel, a year-long initiative from the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office designed to track and prosecute people hosting child pornography on their computers, according to a press release from the Camden County Prosecutors Office.
Among those arrested were four individuals from Haddonfield, three minors and one adult. According to the Prosecutor’s Office, all three were arrested on July 15.
Dawn raids from July 13 to July 17 led investigators to child pornography at homes in 14 of Camden County’s 37 municipalities. The locations ranged from Camden’s row homes to Voorhees’ mini-mansions. The 21 defendants range in age from teenagers to the elderly. These people are accused of downloading and sharing online videos and pictures of children, all of them pre-pubescent, engaged in sexual acts. They include a soldier, a police dispatcher, a truck driver and a retired executive.
Investigators and Assistant Prosecutors from the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office used the latest in computer technology to track in real time individuals downloading child pornography onto their computers.
Between 50 and 100 man hours spent monitoring online activity led to search warrants for 21 properties at addresses in Berlin Borough, Camden, Cherry Hill, Collingswood, Gloucester City, Gloucester Township, Haddonfield, Haddon Township, Merchantville, Oaklyn, Pennsauken, Voorhees, Waterford and Winslow. The warrants allowed law enforcement to search homes for child pornography on computers and other digital storage devices such as cell phones, mp3 players and thumb drives. Investigators conducted a preliminary on-site review of computers and other devices, then seized the machines for a forensic examination at a State Police laboratory. That examination will take several months but the results could lead to further charges against these defendants, according to the Prosecutor’s Office.
During the searches other law enforcement officers interviewed each home’s residents. The technology used to track the suspects identifies IP addresses, not individuals, so an interview was necessary to determine who in a household was keeping the illegal material.
The Prosecutor’s Office filed charges against 21 as a result of the searches. Eighteen defendants were arrested and released on bail. Three remain wanted on warrants.
This operation is intended to send a message that the Prosecutor’s Office is actively and continuously in investigating thee kinds of allegations and seeking out people hosting child pornography on their computers, officials said. It is also intended as a message to parents to monitor their children’s activities online. Allowing a young child to roam unsupervised online is similar to sending a child into a city alone, they said.
The State Police’s Internet Crimes Against Children unit was instrumental in the success of this operation, officials said. State law enforcement has worked to involve county law enforcement in its efforts to fight child pornography. State troopers trained personnel from the Prosecutor’s Office and were present during the raids to bring their expertise to task of searching hard drives for illegal files.
Prosecutor Warren W. Faulk also wished to thank the following police chiefs for partnering with the Prosecutor’s Office in this effort: Mark Cavallo of Haddon Township, Charlie Jones of Cherry Hill, Rick Tsonis of Haddonfield, Edward Smith of Gloucester Township, Scott Thomson of Camden, Robert Carrara of Berlin Borough, John Coffey of Pennsauken, Thomas Garrity of Collingswood, Wayne Bauer of Merchantville, Keith Hummel of Voorhees, Jon Shelly of Oaklyn, Anthony Bello of Winslow, John Knoll of Waterford, William Crothers of Gloucester City,
Approximately 60 officers were needed each day to execute the search warrants, and the work wouldn’t have been possible without the Prosecutor’s Office’s partners in the county.
All defendants were charged with Endangering the Welfare of a Child by Possessing Child Pornography, a 4th degree crime. Several others were charged with Endangering the Welfare of a Child by Distributing Child Pornography, a 2nd degree crime that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years incarceration in a state prison and a place for the defendant on the state’s Megan’s Law list of sex offenders. The distribution charge was filed based upon the volume of material a defendant had and how it was stored on the defendant’s computer.