Officials said the voluminous evidence seized in the five-week operation suggests the sexual exploitation of children in the New York City area has hit ‘epidemic proportions.’
A shocking investigation resulted in the arrests of 71 “twisted individuals” who swapped thousands of sick kiddie porn images on the Internet like baseball cards, officials said Wednesday.
Nabbed in the crackdown were an NYPD officer, a Westchester County police chief, a Brooklyn rabbi, two registered nurses, a paramedic and an au pair. One suspect was both a Boy Scout den leader and a Little League baseball coach.
The arrests also included High Bridge, N.J., mother Lori Bauer, 38, who was charged with producing and distributing pornography involving her own child.
Officials said the voluminous evidence seized suggests the sexual exploitation of children in the New York City area has hit “epidemic proportions.”
The disturbing images confiscated off computers, smartphones and thumb drives included children as young as 3 years old being sexually abused, officials said.
“These crimes are hideous. And reasonable people cannot fathom such depravity,” James Hayes Jr., the head of the New York office of Homeland Security Investigations, said at a press conference Wednesday.
“We discovered tens of thousands of images that were horrifying and depicted children in positions they should never be forced into.”
The suspected perverts were rounded up in all five boroughs, including 17 in Brooklyn and 23 in Queens.
“These are real children whose abuse and victimization has been videotaped for the entertainment of an unfortunately large population of twisted individuals,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson.
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown added that “each time an image is viewed, traded, printed or downloaded, the child in that image is being victimized again.”
One suspect, Yuriy Eydelnant, 50, was accused of planting a hidden camera in the bathroom of his Staten Island home to secretly make numerous videos of a female relative disrobing starting when she was just 14.
“This conduct disgusts all of us,” said Richmond County District Attorney Daniel Donovan.
Authorities were spurred to launch the crackdown following the Jan. 23 arrest of Brian Fanelli, the chief of the Mount Pleasant Police Department in Valhalla, Westchester County.
Less than two months after Fanelli, 54, was busted on federal child pornography charges, Brooklyn rabbi Samuel Waldman, 52, an instructor of Judaic studies, was arrested and charged with possession of child porn.
The investigations of Fanelli and Waldman uncovered a nest of deviants who used computers to exchange videos and photos of children having sex or being molested by adults, officials said.
On April 4, authorities, led by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in New York, initiated “Operation Caireen” — named after the Celtic goddess and defender of children.
Almost immediately, law enforcement officers were stunned by the number of individuals sharing disturbing images on nearly 150 distinct Internet protocol addresses linked to the New York City area.
By May 15, investigators served 87 search warrants, busted 70 men and one women, and seized nearly 600 computing devices. The devices contain an astonishing 175 terabytes of unsettling sexually explicit photos and videos of children.
“The sheer volume of confirmed and suspected instances of individuals engaging in the sexual exploitation of children identified through Operation Caireen is shocking and the professional backgrounds of many of the defendants is troubling,” Hayes said.
“We can no longer assume that the only people who would stoop to prey on children are unemployed drifters.”
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said the suspects “allegedly utilized the Internet to possess, distribute and promote horrific acts against defenseless victims.”
Among those caught in the sting was NYPD officer Yong Wu, 34, who was arrested April 28 at his Ozone Park, Queens, home. Agents traced an Internet protocol address to Wu’s house that made child porn images and movies available for distribution, officials said.
Also busted was Jonathan Silber, 42, a Boy Scout den leader and Little League baseball coach from Suffern, Rockland County, who possessed a cache of child pornography he made available to like-minded miscreants, officials said.
Others collared included Aaron Young, 33, a paramedic from Queens; Eduardo Salcedo Urzola, 22, who was working as an au pair in Brooklyn; and Kenneth Gardner, 59, of Queens, a registered nurse at the Westchester County Medical Center.
Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said the arrests send an “unequivocal message to those who engage in trading child pornography — if you exploit our children, and their abuse, you will be investigated and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”