Tag Archives: child porn

Best Buy’s Geek Squad Accused of Being a “Branch of the FBI” Over Hard Drive Data Searches

A lawyer representing a man facing trial over data found on the hard drive of his computer while he was having it repaired at Best Buy has exposed the fact that the FBI maintains a policy of paying “Geek Squad” supervisors for reporting potentially illegal content they find on customers’ computers.

Beyond the simple breach of trust that this entails between a business and its customers this also poses some security issues, due to the fact that it has prompted Best Buy employees to probe beyond what would be necessary to perform the services they were contracted to conduct.

Within that context, the nature of the paid relationship between those supervisors and the FBI also raises many issues of the legalities of circumventing evidentiary rules that normally apply to searches. Defense attorney James D. Riddet even went so far as to say that Best Buy could be effectively acting as a branch of the FBI.

Via the Washington Post:

At a giant Best Buy repair shop in Brooks, Ky., Geek Squad technicians work on computers owned by people across the country, delving into them to retrieve lost data. Over several years, a handful of those workers have notified the FBI when they see signs of child pornography, earning payments from the agency.

The existence of the small cadre of informants within one of the country’s most popular computer repair services was revealed in the case of a California doctor who is facing federal charges after his hard drive was flagged by a technician. The doctor’s lawyers found that the FBI had cultivated eight “confidential human sources” in the Geek Squad over a four-year period, according to a judge’s order in the case, with all of them receiving some payment.

The case raises issues about privacy and the government use of informants. If a customer turns over their computer for repair, do they forfeit their expectation of privacy, and their Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable searches? And if an informant is paid, does it compromise their credibility or effectively convert them into an agent of the government?

Best Buy searching a computer is legal — the customer authorized it, and the law does not prohibit private searches. But if Best Buy serves as an arm of the government, then a warrant or specific consent is needed. And a federal judge in the child pornography case against Mark Rettenmaier is going to allow defense attorneys to probe the relationship between Best Buy and the FBI at a hearing in Los Angeles starting Wednesday.

“Their relationship is so cozy,” said defense attorney James D. Riddet, “and so extensive that it turns searches by Best Buy into government searches. If they’re going to set up that network between Best Buy supervisors and FBI agents, you run the risk that Best Buy is a branch of the FBI.”The FBI and Justice Department declined to comment. Federal prosecutors argued in California that when a technician doing repairs “stumbles across images of child pornography” and the government wasn’t aware of the search, “the technician is clearly not performing the search with the intent of assisting law enforcement efforts.”

Best Buy spokesman Jeff Shelman said in a statement Monday that “Best Buy and Geek Squad have no relationship with the FBI. From time to time, our repair agents discover material that may be child pornography and we have a legal and moral obligation to turn that material over to law enforcement. We are proud of our policy and share it with our customers before we begin any repair.”

Shelman added, “Any circumstances in which an employee received payment from the FBI is the result of extremely poor individual judgment, is not something we tolerate and is certainly not a part of our normal business behavior.” Court records did not detail how often or how much the technicians were paid, other than one $500 payment to one supervisor.

But emails between Geek Squad technicians and FBI agents in the Louisville field office indicate a long-running relationship. In revealing those publicly in a Dec. 19 order, U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney required technicians and agents to take the witness stand this week. The ruling was first reported by Orange County Weekly.

Many of the documents establishing the ties between the FBI and the technicians are sealed, but Carney discussed some in his order. He noted that the FBI acknowledged it considered technician supervisor Justin Meade a confidential human source for all but a few months between October 2008 and November 2012.

Different agents handled the Geek Squad technicians, Carney wrote. In October 2009, Agent Jennifer Cardwell emailed Meade to express interest in meeting “to discuss some other ideas for collaboration,” Carney disclosed.

In an internal FBI communication in July 2010, Agent Tracey L. Riley told her supervisor that “Source reported all has been quiet for about the last 5-6 months, however source agreed that once school started again, they may see an influx of CP [child pornography].” Meade was later identified as the “source.” Other internal communications show the “source” referring possible cases to Riley from computers sent to the Geek Squad from across the country.

“This two-way thoroughfare of information,” Riddet, the defense attorney. argued in his motion to suppress the evidence, “suggests that the FBI considers [Meade] . . . to be a partner in the ongoing effort of law enforcement to detect and prosecute child pornography violators. . . . Here it is very clear that Best Buy, and specifically the supervisor who reports its technician’s discovery of ‘inappropriate’ content on customers’ computers, are not only working together, but actually planning to conduct more such searches in the future.”

Obviously, since this is a case that involves someone accused of possessing child porn, that obfuscates the issues a bit. However, the larger issue is that the government always expands their abuses, especially in relation to privacy issues. This is, in fact, a perfect example of that and of the ultimate dangers from it.

Originally, computer techs who came across things of that nature would report it, but they weren’t actively searching for incriminating data. Now however, the Feds actually have employees of computer stores on the payroll creating an incentive for them to look for a reason to report their unwitting customers to law enforcement.

As the Washington Post story points out, that includes evidence of an ambiguous nature that potentially wasn’t placed on the computer by its current owner. That sort of evidence would not hold up in court, but because it’s coming from a perceived third hand source it is now accepted as legitimate.

Big Brother has found his latest loophole and it won’t be long before they expand it to other information and potential thought crimes.

Update: Harris County Texas Cop Who Raped Dog on Video Also Charged With Possession of Child Porn

In an update to a story I posted two days ago, it is now being reported that, in addition to having been caught uploading a video of himself raping a dog (using a Harris County Sheriff’s Office computer), Deputy Andrew C. Sustaita Jr. has now been charged with multiple accounts of possessing child pornography.

Reportedly, over 200 images and videos of child porn, including images of at least two girls under four years old being raped, were found on Sustaita’s personal computer during the bestiality related investigation.

Via ABC13.com:

A former deputy accused of posting a video of himself performing a sex act with an animal is now charged with possession of child porn, according to the Harris County District Clerk’s Office.

Andrew C. Sustaita Jr. is a six-year veteran of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, most recently assigned to the Crime Control Division.

According to charging documents, when deputies searched Sustaita’s personal laptop, they discovered more than 200 child pornographic photos and videos. At least two female victims in the photos appear to be as young as 4 years old, documents say.

Sustaita was identified as a suspect during the course of an investigation managed by the sheriff’s high tech crime unit.

The (original) video reportedly shows him involved in a sex act with a small dog.

No other details have been released.

Not surprisingly, neither his father, who is currently still employed as a HCSO deputy, nor his attorney were ready to make a statement about the allegations against Sustaita. (Because you’re pretty much never ready for that.)

Local Media Coverage of New Charges

Original Local Media Coverage

Former Police Officer of the Year in Farmington Hills Michigan Heading to Prison for Child Porn

The following post was shared with the CopBlock Network by a reader using the pseudonym “The Poor & Unknown,” via the CopBlock.org Submissions Page.

The submission details the sentencing of Farmington Hills Police Officer Mathew Parsons for charges related to child porn. In addition, Parsons was convicted of setting up a hidden camera within a bathroom to secretly record nude videos of an unnamed adult victim. He agreed to a plea deal and, as can be seen in the video, was later sentenced to between one and seven years in prison (guess which end of that scale he will end up on).

Prior to receiving his customary paid vacation after a tip led to him being found with child porn, Officer Parsons was a twenty year veteran of the Farmington Hills Police Department. According to Police Chief Chuck Nebus, Parsons was “an officer in good standing who over the decades had received awards and commendations as well as a few complaints.”  While the nature of the complaints was not disclosed, Parsons was in fact named Officer of the Year in 2000.

The CRIMINAL’s are at it again (Via DetroitNews.com):

A longtime Farmington Hills police officer who lost his job over child pornography charges has pleaded guilty to downloading the material, the Michigan Attorney General’s Office announced.

Mathew-ParsonsMatthew Parsons pleaded guilty Wednesday in Oakland County Circuit Court to three felony charges: possession of child sexually abusive material; using a computer to commit a crime; and recording an unclothed person, authorities said in a statement.

As a part of his plea, Parsons is required to register as a sex offender for 15 years and cannot work as a law enforcement officer in Michigan, according to the Attorney General’s Office.

Parsons, 48, resigned from the Farmington Hills Police Department on June 15. (Just how do they let people like this resign with full pension and insurance etc? This is criminal!!)

He was arraigned in May at 51st District Court in Waterford Township on multiple charges stemming from the investigation, which began after a tip from the Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office learned someone, identified as Parsons, had been downloading child sexually abusive material. A probe revealed Parsons had downloaded at least 10 videos with the explicit imagery and “surreptitiously filmed an adult in the nude,” state officials said.

Update (Via WXYZ.com):

Matthew Charles Parsons, 48, of Waterford pleaded guilty to multiple charges related to downloading child pornography in July. He resigned from the police department and will be placed on the sex offender registry for 15 years.

He is facing up to 7 years in prison.

Farmington Hills Police Chief Chuck Nebus says investigators from the Michigan Attorney General’s office and Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force showed up to the station on May 25 with search warrants.

The focus of the search was Officer Parsons, a 20-year veteran of the department.

“It was shocking that it was one of our own,” says Chief Nebus.

– The Poor & Unknown

Please contact the Farmington Hills PD and let them know how you feel about Officer PARSONS the Molester of CHILD PORN:

Officer Involved: Officer Mathew Parsons
Department Involved: Farmington Hills (MI) Police Department
Department Contact Page: Contact Us
Department Phone No.: (248) 474-6181

Michigan Cop Given Free Pass on Child Porn After Previous Sexual Assault Conviction

Ryan Bruggink Grand Rapids Police Rape
Former Officer Ryan Bruggink, who is already serving a 2 to 15 year prison sentence for sexually assaulting his ex-girlfriend, agreed to a plea bargain on child porn charges on Wednesday.

Prior to that previous conviction for third degree criminal sexual conduct, he was a Grand Rapids police officer.

Part of that plea deal, in which he agreed to plead guilty to “possession of child sexually abusive material” and to a charge of using a computer to commit a crime, included that he would serve his sentence at the same time as the previous sentence he received in the case involving his ex-girlfriend.

In other words, he won’t be receiving any sort of actual punishment for admitting to having a relationship with an underage girl and then sharing pornographic pictures of her with other people.

Unlike this case, after Officer Bruggink’s previous conviction for raping a woman he had been dating, he didn’t receive much of a Policeman’s Discount, as is typical.

During the sentencing hearing (see videos embedded below), he sobbed, begged the judge for mercy, and apologized for getting drunk and driving to his victim’s house as well as for not “holding himself to a higher standard.”

One thing he didn’t apologize for though, was for forcing his way into her house and then raping her. That part must have slipped his mind.

LVMPD Corrections Officer Robert Moore Arrested on “Prostitution Related Crime”

Earlier this week it was reported that Robert Moore, an LVMPD corrections officer, had become the latest Metro cop to be arrested for a sex related crime. Although not many details were made public, it was disclosed that Officer Moore was arrested on December 23rd for what was described as a misdemeanor violation of the Unlawful Prostitution Act.

Via the Republic:

Las Vegas police say they arrested a fellow corrections officer nearly a week ago for a misdemeanor prostitution charge.

The department’s public information office said Monday that officers arrested Robert Moore on Dec. 23 for a misdemeanor violation of the Unlawful Prostitution Act.

The office released the information about Moore’s arrest after it closed on Monday. Court records and contact information for Moore or an attorney representing him were not immediately available, and Moore could not be reached for comment.

The statement makes no specific mention of what Moore is accused of doing.

Police say Moore has since been released from the Las Vegas City Jail and placed on paid administrative leave pending internal and criminal investigations. The statement says Moore has been with the department since May 2005.

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Officer Moore is just the latest Las Vegas cop to join the ever increasing ranks of sex offenders wearing a badge. Earlier this year, a LVMPD detective was arrested after beating a prostitute while on duty when she attempted to charge him more than the price they had previously agreed on. In May, Metro Officer Patrick Taylor was arrested on child porn charges. Also this year, a former NLV police chief admitted that he didn’t conduct a proper investigation and then destroyed evidence related to child porn on the North Las Vegas Mayor’s computer. In another incident, a Las Vegas court marshal sexually assaulted a woman during court, then had her arrested when she complained to the judge about it.

N. Las Vegas Police Chief Admitted Covering Up for Mayor in Child Porn Investigation

Child Porn Investigation North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee

Outgoing North Las Vegas Police Chief Joseph Chronister has admitted that child porn on NLV Mayor John Lee’s iPad was not properly investigated and was instead deleted by a detective.

In North Las Vegas, the outgoing police chief, Joseph Chronister, admitted in May that NLV Mayor John Lee received special treatment and that special treatment was based on his position and his ability to affect “certain aspects” of the NLVPD. This special treatment took place during an investigation, which began after the mayor asked police officers working at city hall for assistance in removing child porn from his iPad.

NLVPD Chief Joseph Chronister

Former Chief Joseph Chronister

Mayor Lee claimed that the child porn was on his tablet because “a hacker” sent it to him in an email. However, during the investigation no such email was found and the browser history showed that the iPad had been used to access illegal porn sites that included what appeared to be child porn.

In addition, a week prior to approaching the officer about the iPad, the mayor made what was described as an odd request for help with “debugging a phone” in a voicemail to the Chief. As a result, some have speculated that the hacker sending an email story was just an excuse concocted to hide the true source, possibly amid fear that the incriminating material would eventually be found.

In a statement to the Las Vegas Review Journal shortly after his retirement, Former Chief Chronister stated that the detective assigned to the investigation did an incomplete investigation, didn’t follow up on inconsistent evidence uncovered during that investigation, and later took the mayor’s iPad to an Apple Store to have its memory wiped, before returning it to the mayor.

Via the LVRJ:

North Las Vegas police got the case after the mayor asked the department for help removing what he believed to be child pornography from his personal iPad. A detective helped out but didn’t check any of the mayor’s other electronic devices or press Lee on why his story didn’t make sense in light of evidence found, a police report filed last year shows.

Asked if anyone else would have been treated the same way, the chief said the short answer is no.

“We’re talking about the mayor of North Las Vegas,” Chronister said. “He is a person of authority. He is a person of power. He absolutely has the ability to control certain aspects of our department.”

That includes who the chief of police is.

NLV Mayor John Lee

North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee (right)

The “investigation” lasted all of one day, apparently included no questions about the lack of that email or the presence of the porn sites in Mayor Lee’s browser history, didn’t include any attempt to investigate if other devices under his control also contained such material, and concluded with Detective Mark Hoyt “going above and beyond” to make sure any incriminating evidence was thoroughly wiped out of the iPad’s memory at the Apple Store.

Hoyt’s excuse for not doing a complete investigation was that the apparent children on the porn site were from a different country and therefore he couldn’t determine their age. Chronister, who was in fact later replaced as NLV police chief by Mayor Lee anyway, now says he wishes his department had done more.

Meanwhile, Joseph Dooley, a retired FBI agent who previously ran Connecticut’s computer crimes task force, agrees they should have done more. Among other things, he states (in the same article) that the country where the porn sites originated from should not have kept them from conducting an investigation into what appears to be kiddie porn, that the iPad should have been seized immediately, and that the email story “couldn’t have happened as the mayor described.”

Dooley also classifies Det. Hoyt’s trip to the Apple Store to have the memory wiped as “bizarre.” Instead, they should have consulted the District Attorney‘s Office to determine if there was probable cause to seize other devices and investigate if they contained similar material.

Las Vegas area police departments have been no stranger to sex based crimes lately, including two members of the LVMPD being arrested for child porn. Beyond that, another Metro detective was just given a light sentence after he attacked a prostitute when she tried to raise the price on him, yet another has been accused of sexually assaulting a woman during a domestic violence call, a Clark County Court Marshall groped a woman in court and then had her arrested for reporting it to a judge, and the former head of the Las Vegas Constable’s Office was caught covering up one of his underling’s illegal use of the department’s background check system to find personal information about his favorite adult film stars.

When you have police chiefs openly admitting that they gave special treatment to city officials and that that special treatment was predicated on the fact that “He is a person of authority. He is a person of power. He absolutely has the ability to control certain aspects of our department” that’s the kind of results you end up with. Especially when you pair that with a district attorney who’s literally never seen a police shooting he couldn’t justify. The fact that Former Chief Chronister could come out with an admission like that and not even really cause much of stir actually tells you a lot about “accountability” among the police and public officials in Las Vegas.

Related Content on NVCopBlock.org:

Las Vegas Metro Cop Joins the Growing List of Police Pedophiles/Rapists

Patrick Taylor Facing Child Porn Charges

Patrick Taylor Facing Child Porn Charges

On Wednesday (May 27, 2015), Patrick Taylor turned himself in on charges involving child pornography, stemming from a March 19th raid on his house after investigations by the LVMPD’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and Internal Affairs Bureau. According to Metro, he is being charged with a single count of possession of child pornography and two counts of distribution of child pornography. In spite of the seriousness of those charges, he has been released without bail after his initial court appearance at the Regional Injustice Center in Las Vegas, which took place Wednesday morning. The only conditions being that he promise not to contact his victim or to access the internet or social media.

Anybody that has been paying attention in recent times undoubtedly has noticed that one of the many crimes on the rise within the ranks of police officers are sex crimes. It’s getting rare when even a week goes by that CopBlock.org isn’t posting a story about a cop being caught using their position to rape or in some other way sexually exploit someone. In fact, this isn’t even the only time in recent history that a Las Vegas cop has been caught, as the LVRJ’s article about this case points out.

Via the Las Vegas Review Journal:

Taylor isn’t the first Metro officer to face child porn allegations in recent months. Metro officer James Henry, 37, pleaded guilty in December to one count of possessing a visual presentation depicting sexual conduct of a child. He was sentenced to four years on probation in April. Henry was originally charged with 10 counts of child pornography possession. Prosecutors said several images were found on an online storage account that belonged to him.

The 12-year department veteran was arrested in October after an investigation into child pornography on his Google cloud account. Henry worked as a patrol officer in Metro’s Convention Center Area Command, which includes the Strip.

Michael Kitchen LVMPD Detective Who Assaulted Prostitute

Michael Kitchen LVMPD Detective Who Assaulted Prostitute

In addition, there is the case of the woman, who was sexually assaulted by a Las Vegas court marshal (see video below) and then arrested for reporting it to a judge (that ignored her complaints), a detective, who assaulted the hooker he was visiting (while on duty and driving his police vehicle) after she increased the price on him, and that’s just within Las Vegas in recent times. As you can also see by the quoted LVRJ article above, Taylor’s child porn predecessor, James Henry, only received probabtion for his crimes and exploitation against children. Yet another example of the lack of accountability that these cops have come to expect from the “Justice System” and, no doubt, one of the explanations for this influx of criminals in general within the police departments nationwide.

Sexually assaulted by a Las Vegas Court Martial; then arrested for reporting it: