|TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that an Atlantic City man pleaded guilty today to distributing child pornography over the Internet. He was among 27 defendants arrested in 2012 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.
Max E. Mejia, 48, of Atlantic City, pleaded guilty today to one count of second-degree distribution of child pornography and one count of fourth-degree possession of child pornography before Superior Court Judge Kyran Connor in Atlantic County. The charges were contained in an Oct. 10, 2013 indictment. Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Mejia be sentenced to five years in state prison. He will be required to register as a Megan’s Law offender. Mejia is scheduled to be sentenced on March 28.
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.
“We are working hard to detect and prosecute the criminals who, by viewing and sharing child pornography, re-victimize the children who are sexually abused to create these loathsome materials,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “There can be no mistaking that these offenders create the demand that directly drives that abuse.”
“If you download and share child pornography online, we are going to catch you and put you in prison – that is the message we are sending through these prosecutions,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We have the technology and the will to identify these predators and put them away.”
In pleading guilty, Mejia admitted that between Jan. 5 and April 9, 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 State Police detective downloaded child pornography from a shared folder on Mejia’s computer on five occasions during that time period. Mejia was arrested on April 9, 2012, when the State Police executed a search warrant at his home. A forensic examination of his computer revealed that he possessed at least 84 files of child pornography and shared at least 37, including 29 videos.
Mejia 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.
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 and federal agents from ICE Homeland Security Investigations and the FBI assisted in the investigation and execution of warrants.
Acting Attorney General Hoffman urged those with information about sexual predators to alert law enforcement using New Jersey’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Tipline 1-888-648-6007.