The Suffern home of suspect Jonathan Silber. / Alex Taylor, The (Westchester County, N.Y.) Journal News
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- A single dad in Mahopac secretly videotaped his son's 9-year-old friend in a swimming pool changing room, while a Westchester Medical Center nurse had 19 videos of children under 13 having sex with adults, authorities said Thursday as new details emerge about a regional crackdown on Internet child pornography.
Among the more than 70 people charged was a Port Chester man who had allegedly been downloading child porn for five years and a Kent man, charged with having images of girls as young as 6, whose father was deported six years ago for setting up a sexual tryst with a 14-year-old girl at a Wendy's restaurant in Chicago.
Advocates contend it's a small fraction of the disturbing illegal industry.
"How many more children are not counted? How much child porn is still out there?" said Keira Pollock, deputy executive director of programs and clinical services at the New City-based Center for Safety and Change. "It seems like there's this epidemic hidden industry that continues to profit off of children."
Dubbed Operation Caireen, the crackdown was headed by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and was prompted in part by a probe of then-Mount Pleasant Police Chief Brian Fanelli, who was arrested in January and charged with downloading and distributing child pornography.
At least five of those charged have ties to the Lower Hudson Valley, including Jonathan Silber, 42, a Boy Scout den leader and Little League coach from Suffern, who was arrested at his home on May 9 and charged with possessing child pornography. Federal investigators said an IP address connected to Silber was used to distribute pornographic images online.
Silber and his wife, an elementary school teacher, have two young sons about 5 and 9 in age, neighbors said. Silber works as a systems analyst.
The arrest came as a shock to neighbors, who described Silber as a "typical Rockland neighbor."
"Surprised? I was shocked," said Vic Robbins, 66, a retiree who lives across the street. "He's always got kids at his house. He's very active in the community. Lovely wife. Two nice kids ... I would never have any suspicion that anything wasn't normal."
Other local defendants include John Asmodeo, 30, a computer technician who was temporarily living in Mahopac. He was arrested April 23 and accused of setting up a camera in a changing room to film his son's friend when she changed to go swimming. The girl would visit the home with her 7-year-old brother, but police said Asmodeo would edit out anyone else who appeared on the videos.
Authorities said Asmodeo had visitation rights to see his 9-year-old son at the home. They said the girl was interviewed by Child Protective Services and did not appear to have been physically abused or molested. Asmodeo was freed on a $10,000 bond posted Wednesday.
Kenneth Gardner, 59, a speciality nurse at Westchester Medical Center, was arrested at his home in Queens on April 8. Gardner, who is married, is charged with possessing and prompting a sexual performance by a child, according to a complaint filed by the Queens District Attorney's Office.
He has been a licensed registered nurse since 1986. Hospital officials said in a statement Thursday that Gardner "was immediately and indefinitely suspended without pay" after his arrest. He could lose his nursing license if convicted.
Solomon Ben, 29, of Port Chester, was charged with possessing and receiving child pornography in a federal complaint filed April 28. Authorities said Ben had been viewing pornographic files for up to five years. He was later released on bail.
Agents said they first questioned him at his home on Nov. 18, and that he "had a preference for child pornography depicting girls approximately thirteen to fourteen years old." He could not be reached for comment.
Christian Cote, 26, of Kent, was arrested April 9 and charged with possessing images of girls as young as 6. The Putnam County District Attorney's Office said in a statement that investigators seized a laptop, desktop computer and a mobile phone. They also found a small amount of marijuana, authorities said.
His father, Francois Cote, was deported to Canada in 2008 after being released from federal prison, where he served time for traveling from Newark to Chicago, intending to have sex with a 14-year-old girl he met online.
The girl was actually a Cooks County sheriff's detective, who Cote greeted with a hug in 2003 at a Wendy's restaurant. Her greeting "wasn't nearly so warm," a federal judge wrote in the case, as Cote was arrested by FBI agents and sheriff's deputies.
The current investigation â?? named for Caireen, the protector and patron of children in Celtic mythology â?? focused on online peer-to-peer, or "P2P", file-sharing that allows Internet users to exchange images and videos. The defendants include a rabbi, two other police officers, an airline pilot and an architect. Investigators said additional charges could be lodged against some of them.
Contributing: Lee Higgins, Jonathan Bandler and Hoa Nguyen of The Journal News
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Read the original story: Shock, disbelief after child porn arrests