St. Lucie County Sheriff Mascara discusses "Operation Predator Hunt"
Here is the statement of St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken J. Mascara discussing "Operation Predator Hunt."
The St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office is a member of the South Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce. The State of Florida has three such task forces, and there are numerous other ICAC task forces across the country. Each task force also has numerous local, state, and federal agencies, which investigate Internet crimes against juveniles (ICAC). These taskforces were established in conjunction with the Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (website ojjdp.gov) which oversees them. These taskforces also work closely with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NMEC - website missingkids.com.) Membership in the ICAC taskforce presents opportunities for equipment, training, and technical assistance.
The St Lucie County Sheriff’s Office recently conducted an intensified cyber crimes operation called "Operation Predator Hunt" targeting subjects who use the Internet to trade and download child pornography, solicited children on line, and facilitate meetings with children for the express purpose of having sexual relationships with them. The operation was aimed at violators living in St. Lucie County, the ones targeting our children.
The operation resulted in the arrest of 12 suspects (listed below) for a variety of charges. To date, theses 12 suspects have been charged with over 420 felony charges, 2 misdemeanor charges, and 1 felony arrest warrant out of Texas. Some of these cases are still under investigation due to the large volume of computers, computer equipment that was seized as evidence, which need to be forensically examined, possibly resulting in additional charges.
In some cases, detectives began investigations of other possible targets who were downloading child pornography. As the investigations continued, detectives learned the targets were actually located in other jurisdictions. The respective ICAC Units were contacted and the information passed along to them for follow-up investigations.
The St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office ICAC Unit served 18 search warrants during the operation. Eleven of the search warrants resulted in the arrest of the aforementioned suspects. One of the search warrants resulted from an investigation of an open Wi-Fi system. The registered owner of that Wi-Fi system lives in an apartment complex. When the search warrant was served, no child pornography was found on the owner’s computer. As a result, detectives conducted knock and talk interviews with the neighbors in the proximity of the Wi-Fi system. Some neighbors cooperated and allowed a cursory forensics review of their computers, and some refused. During these interviews, no child pornography was located. Detectives continue to investigate this case. Residents were educated as to the importance of securing their Wi-Fi systems.
During the operation, the ICAC Unit executed five simultaneous search warrants on individual rooms at a local hotel. The hotel has an open (unsecured) Wi-Fi system for the use of their registered guests. The detectives used all means available to narrow down the room the suspect was staying in. The day before the search warrant, the suspect unexpectedly left the hotel without checking out. The investigation is continuing.
The Sheriff’s Office is currently working several additional child pornography cases. We have received information from several sources, including the United States Military, other ICAC Units, NMEC, and concerned citizens.
The ICAC Unit conducted a search warrant in Fort Pierce in reference to someone downloading child pornography. The suspect in that case was at home when the search warrant was executed. In a post Miranda interview with the suspect, he admitted to recently downloading child pornography. The suspect admitted to looking on the Internet for photos of underage children. The suspect told us that the hard drive on his computer recently crashed. The suspect threw the hard drive away and replaced it with a new one. A forensics preview of the computer in the house did not reveal any child pornography. After consulting with the State’s Attorney Office, the suspect was not arrested based on just his confession alone. This suspect is one the Unit will continue to monitor.
During Operation Predator Hunt, the ICAC Unit received seven cyber tips from NCMEC and the South Florida ICAC task force. Four of these tips have been investigated and have been unfound, cleared, or sent to other ICAC units for follow up. Three of the cyber tips are still being investigated. NCMEC sends out numerous cyber tips each day to task forces across the country for investigation.
Since 2010, the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office has investigated 31 child pornography cases and 18 cyber tips. Since that time, the Sheriff’s Office has arrested 22 suspects (including these twelve suspects) on a variety of charges.
These investigations have resulted in the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office being able to identify and save nine children who were being molested by the arrested suspects, or being groomed to run away to meet with suspects, and four possible child victims.
These possible victims could not be qualified as witnesses for a variety of reasons, mostly due to their age. Suspect(s) use available friends and family to meet victims and start to groom the victims for their eventual molestation. The suspects also use the global reach of the Internet to meet and befriend victims on line.
Many parents have no idea their children are chatting with these predators on the Internet, and that the predators are slowly working their way into their children’s lives. Predators use social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, My Space, and chat rooms to have their first contact with their potential victims.
Many children put all their personal information on these sites, detail their exact movements throughout the day, their likes and dislike, their fears and aspirations, statements that they are lonely. They open their lives up for everyone and anyone to see. Predators use the fact that children are home alone on the computer due to parents working busy schedules, or just plain do not care.
The protection of the children of St Lucie County is a high priority for the Sheriff’s Office. The members of the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office, in particular the ICAC Unit, demonstrate this commitment every day.
As Sheriff of St. Lucie County, I am committed to protecting our children. I am putting anyone who preys on our children, by downloading or trading child pornography, or soliciting children to molest them, on notice. We will find you and when we do, you will go to jail.
Statistics for Operation Predator Hunt
- 12 arrests
- 420 felony charges to date; There is the possibility of more charges to come, as some cases are still under investigation.
- 2 misdemeanor charges
- 1 felony arrest warrant from Texas
- Approximately 60 computers/equipment seized and examined
- 5,000 pornographic images/videos recovered to date (not all computers have been examined)
- 5 children saved/ 1 child we could not qualify as witnesses
- 22 cases worked resulting in 18 search warrants
- Approximately 5,000 man-hours involved
Statistics for the St. Lucie County ICAC Unit since January 2010 (Including Operation Predator Hunt)
- 22 total arrests (Including Operation predator Hunt)
- 663 felony charges
- 2 misdemeanor charge
- Approximately 500 computers/equipment seized and examined
Over 120,000 pornographic images/videos recovered to date
- 9 Children save/4 Children we could not qualify
- Cases worked resulting in 28 search warrants
- 2 Felony arrest warrants from Texas
Suspects arrested in Operation Predator Hunt
Earl McGee: 24 Felony Charges
The ICAC Unit served a search warrant in Port St. Lucie. The suspect is an Earl Douglas McGee. In an unrelated incident, this suspect confessed and was arrested approximately 5 years ago for molesting two juveniles. After t he case was turned over to the State Attorneys office the charges were dropped.
During a post Miranda interview with the suspect, he admitted to downloading 50 child pornography pictures. During an on-scene preview of the CD’s and computers, the ICAC Unit found child pornography pictures of a 4-5 YOA child. Other child pornography photos were discovered which depicted both juvenile males and females between the ages of four and fifteen years old. As the investigation continued, the detectives were able to identify the juvenile victim in the photos. The detectives learned that the suspect had sexually molested the victim. As detectives continued their investigation, they identified and located a second victim who had also been sexually molested by the suspect. The victim was identified and interviewed.
Based on the forensics investigation and a review of the suspect’s facebook account, and the suspect’s contact with other children it was necessary to interview 10 other possible victims. These interviews did not produce any other victims. The suspect gained access to the children by the use of facebook, befriending their parents, and through family contacts.
Arthur Ayvaz: 20 Felony Charges
A search warrant was executed in Port St. Lucie, Fl. During the search warrant, images depicting child pornography were located on the suspect’s computer. The images, which were found, depicted young females four to twelve years old. Post Miranda he confessed that he sexually molested a juvenile.
Joseph Baldino: 150 Felony
This case started when the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office received information from a cyber tip from NCMEC (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children) which was forwarded to us by the South Florida ICAC Taskforce. With this cyber tip, the detectives started their investigation. Later we also received information from a detective with the New York State Police who is a member of an ICAC Unit in New York State. Thirdly, we received information from a detective with the Cook County Sheriff’s Office ICAC Unit in Chicago, Illinois about the suspect. Lastly, we received information from a detective with the St. Charles County Sheriff’s Office ICAC Unit located in Missouri, in reference to the suspect.
With this information the detectives continued their investigation an obtained a search warrant which was served in Port St. Lucie, Fl. During the search warrant, child pornography was found on a computer belonging to the suspect. A full forensics examination is pending. The suspect in the case did not confess. Since the defendant's original arrest, additional charges have been placed against him. This on going investigation has lead to the arrest of the suspect’s mother, Doreen Baldino, for tampering with witnesses and principle in the first degree for child pornography. This case is still under investigation and more charges are pending.
Doreen Baldino: 3 Felony Charges
While investigating Joseph Baldino detectives learned, he contacted his mother, Doreen Baldino and asked her to get people to establish false alibis for him. A 2nd search warrant was executed in Port St. Lucie, Fl. Recovered during the search were letters Joseph Baldino sent to his mother, through a third person. These letters instructed his mother what she needed to do, what she needed to say, and what she needed to tell other people to do to get him exonerated on his charges. Detectives conducted interviews with these people. Based on the interviews and the letters, detectives obtained warrants for Doreen Baldino.
Joseph Baldino Sr.: 1 Misdemeanor arrest
Joseph Baldino Sr. was arrested during the search warrant when his son was arrested for possession of child pornography. The suspect refused to comply with the detective lawful orders several times. When he stood up and attempted to walk by one of the detectives, he was placed under arrested.
Scott Clayton Johnson: 103 Felony Charges
The ICAC Unit served a search warrant in Ft. Pierce, Fl. in reference to child pornography. During the search warrant, detectives located a computer belonging to the suspect, Scott Clayton Johnson. A forensics preview of the computer revealed child pornography had been downloaded to the computer. A full forensics examination is pending. During a post Miranda interview the suspect, admitted to downloading child pornography.
While the interview was being conducted, detectives located a hidden video. An examination of the video showed the suspect having sexual intercourse with a child approximately 7-10 years of age. When the suspect was questioned about the video, he admitted to making the video, having sexual intercourse with the victim and identified the victim.
Detective continued their investigation by locating the victim and their family. Detectives interviewed the family and the victim, who confirmed the sexual abuse. The molestation had been going on for many years. The suspect gained access to the child by befriending the victim’s mother and the victim. The suspect then took his time, grooming the victim for what was about to happen to them. During the search of the residence, the ICAC Unit located two books on how to groom young children.
Steven Lehner 20 Felony Charges 1 Misdemeanor Charges
The ICAC Unit served a search warrant in Port St. Lucie, Fl. in reference to someone downloading child pornography. The suspect was located inside the house when the search warrant was served. A forensics preview of the computer was conducted. This preview revealed child pornography had been downloaded onto the computer. During a post Miranda interview with the suspect, he admitted to downloading child pornography. The suspect was placed under arrested. A full forensics examination is pending.
Joseph Vinci: 20 Felony Charges
The ICAC Unit served a search warrant in Port St. Lucie, Fl. in reference to someone downloading child pornography. While the search warrant was being read aloud, the suspect, Joseph Vinci, made several spontaneous statements that he was responsible for downloading these types of files.
During a post Miranda interview with the suspect, he said he did not intentionally download the images. He then admitted that he downloaded to child pornography to his computer then transferred it to an external hard drive. A forensics preview of the computer revealed numerous child pornography photos. A full forensics examination is pending. The suspect was arrested.
Sean Dearborn 20 Felony Charges
The ICAC Unit served a search warrant in Port St. Lucie, Fl. in reference to someone downloading child pornography. The suspect was located alone in the house when the search warrant was served. During a post Miranda interview with the suspect, he admitted to downloading child pornography. A forensics preview of the computer revealed someone downloaded child pornography. A full forensics examination is pending.
Brian McGauley 20 Felony Charges 1 pending warrant out of Hardin County Texas
The ICAC Unit was contacted by a Detective Sergeant from the Hardin County Sheriff’s Office located in Texas. The Hardin County Sheriff’s Office was working a case where a subject in Florida, solicited a juvenile in Texas to send pornographic images of themselves. The suspect met the victim on line using Facebook and My Space.
Detectives in both Sheriff’s Office worked together to identify the suspect who was identified as Brian McGauley, a registered pharmacist in Florida. Detectives continued their investigation and based on that investigation a warrant was issued in the State of Texas for the arrested of Brian McGauley for solicitation of a minor.
This investigation also resulted in the issuance of a search warrant issued, which served in Port St. Lucie, Florida. The suspect, Brian McGauley, admitted to sending nude photos of adult males to a 13 years of age. child in Texas. A forensics examination of the computer preview of the child pornography was found on the suspect’s computer. A full forensics examination is pending.
Jeffery Scott 20 Felony Charges
The ICAC Unit served a search warrant in Port St. Lucie, Fl, in reference to someone downloading child pornography. During a post Miranda interview with the suspect, he admitted to downloading child pornography to his computer. A forensics preview of the computer revealed that someone had downloaded child pornography to the computer. The suspect was arrested. A full forensics examination is pending.
Jeffery Parramore 20 Felony Charges
The ICAC Unit served a search warrant in Ft. Pierce, Fl in reference to someone using an electronic device to lure a child into having a sexual relationship. During the investigation the detectives located text message, that were sexual in nature, along child pornography pictures. The suspect was located at home when the search warrant was issued. The suspect was arrested. A full forensics examination is pending.
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