|TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that an Ocean City man pleaded guilty today to distributing child pornography over the Internet. He was among 27 defendants arrested last year as a result of “Operation Watchdog,” a multi-agency investigation led by the New Jersey State Police and the Division of Criminal Justice that targeted offenders who distributed known images and videos of child pornography online.
John B. “Jay” Mulligan III, 42, of Ocean City, pleaded guilty today to second-degree distribution of child pornography and fourth-degree possession of child pornography before Superior Court Judge John C. Porto in Cape May County. Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Mulligan be sentenced to three years in state prison. He will be required to register as a Megan’s Law offender. Judge Porto scheduled Mulligan to be sentenced on Nov. 22.
In pleading guilty, Mulligan admitted that between Jan. 12, 2012 and April 13, 2012, he knowingly used Internet file sharing software to make multiple files containing child pornography readily available for any other user to download from a designated “shared folder” on his computer. A search warrant executed by the State Police on April 13, 2012 allegedly revealed more than a dozen files containing child pornography, including several video clips, on Mulligan’s computer in his home in Ocean City.
“Each time we send another offender to prison for viewing and sharing child pornography online, we hammer home the critical point that this is a very serious crime,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “We’re working hard to banish the misguided and offensive notion that what these offenders do in the privacy of their homes is a victimless crime. In reality, what they do creates the demand that directly drives the sexual abuse of children.”
“Users of child pornography may think they can hide in the shadows, but we have the technology to detect their criminal activities online and follow their digital tracks right to their computers,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We want them to know that we will use that technology to prosecute them and put them behind bars.”
Mulligan was charged in Operation Watchdog, a three-month, multi-agency investigation in which one woman and 26 men were arrested in early 2012 on charges of distribution and possession of child pornography. Detectives linked all of the defendants to alleged use of the Internet to download and distribute images of child pornography. Peer-to-peer, or P2P, file sharing networks play a major role in the distribution of child pornography. There is a large library of images and videos known to law enforcement, and these electronic files can be traced in various ways on the Internet. Detectives involved in Operation Watchdog tracked transferred files to their origin and destination locations.
Deputy Attorney General Anand R. Shah prosecuted the case and took the guilty plea for the Division of Criminal Justice Computer Analysis & Technology Unit. The Digital Technology Investigation Unit of the New Jersey State Police coordinated the investigation, which also involved the Division of Criminal Justice and 19 other law enforcement agencies.
All of the New Jersey agencies that partnered in Operation Watchdog are members of the New Jersey Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC). Additionally, the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office assisted in the investigation, and agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the FBI assisted in the investigation and execution of warrants.
The ICAC Task Force in New Jersey works with out-of-state partners to share information on distributors and users of child pornography. A major partner is the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Washington, D.C. They maintain a national, toll-free tip line for the public to report crimes against children: 1-800-THE-LOST, or 1-800-843-5678. The tip line brings hundreds of leads to the New Jersey ICAC Task Force on sexual crimes against children.