|TRENTON –Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced that a former Vineland elementary school teacher who was a stage manager for a summer theater camp was indicted today on charges that he possessed hundreds of files of child pornography and allegedly manufactured child pornography by hiding a camera in restrooms at the theater camp to record underage boys.
Thomas Guzzi Jr., 38, of Pitman, N.J. – who formerly was a 5th-grade teacher at the Winslow Elementary School and was an advisor and stage manager for youth productions at the school and the Broadway Theatre of Pitman – allegedly captured images and videos of teenage boys urinating in restrooms at the summer theater camp in Pitman. He allegedly had separate computer folders to store images and videos of certain boys, and he allegedly created photo montages of two underage boys that mixed photos of their faces with photos of them urinating with their genitals exposed. He also allegedly created a music video of one of those two boys that had images and video footage of the boy urinating edited together with video recordings of him dancing in rehearsals for the summer musical production.
Guzzi was arrested last year in “Operation Safeguard,” a child pornography sweep conducted by the Attorney General’s Office, ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the New Jersey State Police. Guzzi allegedly had hundreds of videos and images of child pornography on computer equipment seized from his home during execution of a search warrant on Feb. 19, 2016. He was terminated by the school district and his teaching license was revoked after his arrest.
The Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau obtained a 10-count state grand jury indictment on Dec. 7, 2017 charging Guzzi with the following offenses:
- Manufacturing Child Pornography (6 counts, 2nd degree),
- Distribution of Child Pornography, 25 or More Items (2nd degree),
- Storing or Maintaining Child Pornography Using a File-Sharing Program (2nd degree),
- Possession of Child Pornography, 100 or More Items (3rd degree), and
- Invasion of Privacy (3rd degree).
The indictment was sealed until today while further investigative steps were taken. Guzzi was re-arrested today on a warrant based on the indictment and is being held in jail pending a detention hearing.
“Guzzi allegedly stalked underage teenage boys for his sexual gratification, using a hidden camera to invade their privacy and capture images that he used to create child pornography,” said Attorney General Porrino. “Guzzi’s alleged heinous conduct highlights the alarming fact that child predators often seek positions in which they are entrusted with the supervision of children, only to betray that trust by sexually exploiting vulnerable young victims. This case further affirms what was starkly illustrated by the 79 sex offenders we recently arrested in Operation Safety Net, namely that those who share child pornography also frequently share a proclivity for hands-on sexual abuse or exploitation of children.”
“It is chilling that Guzzi allegedly kept separate computer folders for each of his young victims, where he kept the child pornography he created,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Guzzi’s alleged targeting of specific teenage boys for sexual purposes raises concern that there may be other victims and conduct to be uncovered. Our investigation is ongoing, and we urge anyone who might have significant information about Guzzi to contact us confidentially.”
Attorney General Porrino and Director Honig urged anyone who has relevant information about Guzzi to contact the New Jersey Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Tip Line at 888-648-6007. They also urged members of the public to contact the tip line if they have information about other individuals distributing child pornography on the internet or about improper contact by unknown persons communicating with children on the internet or possible exploitation or sexual abuse of children
“Those who think they can engage in these kinds of heinous activities and escape justice by hiding in cyberspace should be forewarned that HSI has the tools and experts at its disposal to protect our children from those who seek to sexually exploit them,” said Michael McCarthy, Acting Special Agent in Charge of HSI Newark. “We owe it to the young victims in these cases, who will carry the emotional and physical scars of these crimes with them for the rest of their lives, to bring these individuals to justice.”
During Operation Safeguard, special agents of ICE Homeland Security Investigations and detectives of the Division of Criminal Justice and New Jersey State Police Digital Technology Investigations Unit monitored online file-sharing networks that are popular with offenders who download and share child pornography. Using advanced technology, the investigators searched for digital “fingerprints” of known child pornography, as well as search terms used by such offenders. 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.
Guzzi was arrested on Feb. 19, 2016, when detectives of the Division of Criminal Justice executed a search warrant at his residence. A special agent from U.S. Homeland Security Investigations previously had downloaded three videos of child pornography from a shared folder at an IP address traced to Guzzi and had referred the case to the Division of Criminal Justice. During the search, detectives seized computer equipment belonging to Guzzi, including desktop, laptop and tablet computers, as well as external hard drives. A forensic preview of the laptop allegedly revealed not only child pornography, but also a video showing Guzzi installing a camera in a public restroom and a man then using the restroom.
Subsequent full forensic examinations of Guzzi’s computer devices revealed video recordings of multiple boys and adult men using restrooms. The investigation revealed that the videos allegedly were captured by Guzzi using a hidden camera placed in two restrooms, one backstage at the Broadway Theater in Pitman, and a second connected to a rehearsal space across the street from the main theater building. Neither restroom was open to the general public. It is alleged that investigators also discovered that Guzzi not only surreptitiously videotaped children and adults using those restrooms during the 2015 summer theater camp program, but he also created the pornographic music video and photo montages using video footage from the restrooms of two underage boys whose identities are now known through the investigation. The nude photos and video recordings used in the music video and montages allegedly were culled from about three hours of restroom footage recorded during the summer camp program. Investigators allegedly located more than 300 files of child pornography on Guzzi’s computer devices.
Deputy Attorneys General John Nicodemo and Rachael Weeks presented the indictment to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau. Deputy Attorney General Nicodemo, former Detective Tiffany Lenart, former Detective Laura Hurley, Detective Richard DaSilva and Detective Charles Pusloski investigated the case for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau, in collaboration with HSI agents.
Attorney General Porrino thanked the Pitman Police Department for their assistance in execution of the search warrant. He also thanked the staff of the Broadway Theatre of Pitman, who cooperated fully and provided valuable assistance throughout the investigation.
The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Timothy P. Lydon in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Gloucester County, where Guzzi will be arraigned in court at a later date. The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
Under the tough child pornography law signed by Governor Christie in 2013, possession of 100 or more items of child pornography carries a presumptive sentence of three to five years in prison, whether or not the defendant has any prior felony conviction. Distribution of child pornography is a second-degree crime, and the new law imposes a mandatory minimum period of parole ineligibility of five years for distribution of 25 or more items. The law imposes strict liability on internet file sharers, placing responsibility on the user for having child pornography in a “shared folder.” Whether the user knew he or she was sharing, or whether any other user ever downloaded the file, is irrelevant. In cases of possession or distribution of child pornography, the prosecutor can ask the court to impose a sentence of parole supervision for life under Megan’s Law.
Edward Crisonino, Esq., Haddon Township, N.J.
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