Federal agents arrest quadriplegic for child porn http://www.privateofficer.com
Mobile Al. April 30 3008
By BRENDAN KIRBY
A quadriplegic man from Satsuma paid for child pornography over the Internet and secretly videotaped young girls taking showers in his house, a federal indictment alleges.
A grand jury last week charged Robert Vezendy, 42, with three counts production of child pornography, four counts of possession of child porn and one count receipt of child porn. He is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court to answer to the charges today.
If convicted of all three production counts, Vezendy faces 45 years to life in prison. He has been ordered held at Mobile County Metro Jail until his appearance today.
Vezendy’s lawyer, Dennis Knizley, said he has not yet seen the evidence against his client. He said he will ask a judge to release Vezendy to the custody of his parents, who have driven to Mobile from their home in New York.
“I cannot comment about the strength of the government’s case,” he said. “However, because of his physical condition, he’s having an extremely difficult time in jail, as you might imagine.”
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents from the Department of Homeland Security seized computers and hard drives from Vezendy’s home at 5809 Vaughn Drive West last month. The hard drives contained digital videos of naked girls younger than 18 using the bathroom and shower, according to an affidavit filed in federal court.
“Additional observation of the videos revealed that they appeared to be captured via the use of a hidden camera,” the affidavit states.
Dwight McDaniel, the assistant special agent in charge of the agency in Alabama, said authorities are trying to determine who the girls in the videos are.
“We are working diligently to identify any potential victims,” he said. “We’re doing all our homework, I assure you.”
Knizley said his client suffered severe injuries in his native New York when he was 17 years old and was struck by a car while riding his bicycle. He said Vezendy has no use of his legs and only partial control over his arms. He wears a special device on his hands to help him maneuver them, Knizley said.
Knizley said Vezendy works as a manager for a chemical company and has lived in Mobile County for the past 11 years. His said he already has outlived the life expectancy of someone with his injuries.
Vezendy’s credit card number was one of many found by New Jersey-based federal investigators during Operation Emissary II, an undercover probe of international child pornographers. Investigators discovered that Vezendy used his MasterCard on May 13, 2006 to pay $79.99 for access to a Web site containing images of adults having sex with children, according to an affidavit filed in federal court.
When federal investigators visited Vezendy’s home, according the affidavit, they saw a number of items they considered unusual for a single man living alone.
They included numerous stuffed animals on the living room sofa, several prominently displayed photographs of a girl estimated to be about 13 and two schedules of girls’ softball teams.
Knizley said all of the items are “absolutely, totally innocent.”
McDaniel said the objects warrant further investigation, but he acknowledged that stuffed animals and youth sports schedules by themselves prove no wrongdoing. “At this point, I can’t tell you that means anything,” he said.
A forensic analysis of Vezendy’s desktop computer turned up images from the so-called “Lolita” series, one of the oldest known child porn sets in circulation, according to the affidavit.
The document states that the series originally was imported into the United States in print form and has been encountered by law enforcement investigators throughout the country many times.
The investigator’s affidavit states that Vezendy told authorities that he previously had considered deleting the images and movies but had not done so.
Later, the document states, Vezendy called the agent and told him he had received an e-mail that contained the Internet link to a Web site that had images of young girls. He said he initially did not access the site but added that “curiosity got the best of me.”
Investigators traced the illicit Web site to Estonia. The undercover officer who signed up for access got an e-mail suggesting that he tell anyone who asks that he used the site to purchase spyware. The first page of the Web site also contains a warning and a hint.
“Our site is considered illegal in all countries,” it stated, according to the affidavit. “Even if you ever have problems with police, you can always say that someone had stolen the information from your credit card and used it. It is very difficult to establish that you were the person to pay.”
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