|TRENTON - Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that an Atlantic County man has pleaded guilty to distributing child pornography on the Internet. He is one of 28 defendants arrested during the past year as a result of “Operation Predator Alert,” a joint state and federal operation led by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice and ICE Homeland Security Investigations.
Juan Carlos Alvarez, 34, of Egg Harbor Township, pleaded guilty yesterday to second-degree distribution of child pornography and third-degree possession of more than 100 files of child pornography before Superior Court Judge Bernard E. DeLury Jr. in Atlantic County. Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Alvarez be sentenced to five years in state prison, including 2 ½ years of parole ineligibility. He will be required to register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law. Judge DeLury scheduled sentencing for Alvarez for Oct. 3.
Deputy Attorney General Jillian Carpenter took the guilty plea for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau. Operation Predator Alert targeted offenders in New Jersey who used a file-sharing network to download and distribute child pornography, including child rape videos, on the Internet. Acting Attorney General Hoffman and Special Agent in Charge Andrew M. McLees of the Newark Office of ICE Homeland Security Investigations announced arrests of 14 men, including Alvarez, on Oct. 28, 2013, and announced 14 more arrests last month, on July 24.
In pleading guilty, Alvarez admitted that prior to his arrest on Oct. 2, 2013, he knowingly used Internet file sharing software to make multiple files of child pornography readily available for any other user to download from a designated “shared folder” on his computer. A search warrant executed at his residence revealed over 2,000 photographic images and over 100 videos of child pornography on his computer and six different hard drives. The new child pornography law, signed by Governor Christie on Aug. 14, 2013, carries a presumption of imprisonment for possession of 100 or more files of child pornography.
“Our tough new child pornography statute provides for lengthy prison sentences, including mandatory periods of parole ineligibility, and we’re going to make maximum use of that law to put offenders like Alvarez behind bars,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “Those who share child pornography online put themselves in league with the child predators who torture and sexually exploit innocent children to create these vile materials. They deserve the harshest of penalties.”
“Through our ongoing partnership with ICE Homeland Security Investigations in Operation Predator Alert, we have rounded up 28 offenders who have victimized children by viewing them being sexually abused and who potentially pose a direct danger to children in our communities,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “These cases will remain a top priority for the Division of Criminal Justice.”
“People like Alvarez, who distribute images of children engaging in sexual acts need to be found and removed from our society,” said Andrew M. McLees, Special Agent in Charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations in Newark. “Through partnerships with state and local law enforcement agencies, HSI will continue to vigorously investigate child exploitation cases like this one.”
During Operation Predator Alert, special agents of HSI monitored an online file-sharing network that is popular with offenders who download and trade child pornography. Using advanced technology, the agents searched for telltale digital “fingerprints” of known child pornography, as well as search terms used by those who download and share child pornography. Through these and other methods, they identified New Jersey residents who were downloading child pornography and making child pornography available to others in “shared folders” on their computers. The Division of Criminal Justice obtained arrest and search warrants, which they executed with HSI. Numerous state, county and local law enforcement agencies assisted in executing the warrants.
The file-sharing networks used by offenders to distribute child pornography operate in the same manner as websites used for privately sharing music or movies. Those in possession of the illegal images can make them available on computers that they control for others to download. Because many of these videos and photos of child pornography keep recirculating, they result in the perpetual re-victimization of the children who were sexually assaulted or abused to produce them.
Acting Attorney General Hoffman and Director Honig urged anyone who has information about the distribution of child pornography on the Internet or who suspects improper contact by unknown persons communicating with children via the Internet or possible exploitation or sexual abuse of children to contact the New Jersey Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Tipline at 888-648-6007.