TRENTON – Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced that a Cape May man has been arrested on charges that he used a file sharing network to distribute images and videos of child pornography over the Internet from his home computer.
Aaron N. Debarardnis, 25, of Lower Township, was arrested this morning at a friend’s house in Cape May by members of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the New Jersey State Police and the Division of Criminal Justice. He was charged with second-degree distribution of child pornography and fourth-degree possession of child pornography. Debarardnis was lodged in the Cape May County Jail with bail set at $50,000.
“We will continue to work aggressively with our law enforcement partners to target those who distribute child pornography over the Internet,” said Attorney General Chiesa. “This is absolutely not a victimless crime, because children are tortured to supply the online market for these vile materials, and they are re-victimized each time their images are shared.”
“With arrests such as this one, we are putting those who share child pornography via the Internet on notice that their activities are being monitored by law enforcement and they will face serious punishment if caught,” said Director Stephen J. Taylor of the Division of Criminal Justice.
“Child pornography is frequently passed back and forth through peer-to-peer file sharing networks by those who think they are anonymous. This is just one more in a string of arrests that says, ‘We can find you and arrest you for this terrible crime against children,’” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations initiated the investigation. On two occasions, once in August 2011 and again in September 2011, ICE agents who were monitoring Internet activity downloaded computer files of child pornography, including still images and videos, which they allegedly traced to a computer in Debarardnis’ mobile home. Debarardnis allegedly used peer-to-peer file sharing software to make over 100 files of child pornography available for any other user to download from a designated “shared folder” on his computer. In October 2011, agents from ICE approached Debarardnis at his residence and seized his computer with his consent. An examination of the computer allegedly revealed hundreds of videos and thousands of still images of child pornography.
ICE referred the case to the New Jersey State Police Digital Technology Investigations Unit and the Division of Criminal Justice Computer Analysis & Technology Unit. Deputy Attorney General Kenneth R. Sharpe is prosecuting the case for the Division of Criminal Justice.
Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of $150,000, while fourth-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison and a fine of $10,000.
The charges in the complaint against Debarardnis are merely accusations and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Because the charges are indictable offenses, they will be presented to a grand jury for potential indictment.
If you have information about the distribution of child pornography on the Internet or suspect improper contact by unknown persons communicating with children via the Internet or possible exploitation or sexual abuse of children, please contact the New Jersey Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Tipline at 1-888-648-6007.