Former Children’s Minister Pleads Guilty To Federal Child Pornography Charges
ALBUQUERQUE – Derek M. Schwartzrock, 34, of Albuquerque, N.M., pleaded guilty this morning to receipt of a visual depiction of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Schwartzrock will be sentenced to 97 months in federal prison followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court. Schwartzrock also will be required to register as a sex offender. The guilty plea was announced by U.S. Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales, Special Agent in Charge Dennis A. Ulrich, II, of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in El Paso, Texas, and Chief Robert W. Shilling of the New Mexico State Police (NMSP).
In announcing Schwartzrock’s guilty plea, U.S. Attorney Gonzales said, “Protecting our children from the permanent scars left behind when this type of exploitation occurs is critically important work. We have developed the expertise to responsibly gather the necessary evidence to charge these cases and, as demonstrated by today’s guilty plea, convictions on these charges carry serious penalties under federal law that should send a strong message of deterrence.”
“This case is particularly disturbing since Mr. Schwartzrock worked closely with children,” said HSI Special Agent in Charge Ulrich, who oversees HSI operations in New Mexico. “However it serves as a warning to other child predators that HSI and its law enforcement partners aggressively investigate this type of depraved activity, punishable by harsh penalties.”
“The partnership and teamwork the State has with our federal partners cannot be understated in bringing child predators to justice,” said NMSP Chief Shilling. “The exploitation of children on the Internet has no geographical or jurisdictional boundaries and requires that we share information, partner and work as a team when protecting our children.”
Schwartzrock was arrested by HSI and the NMSP on April 3, 2013, on a criminal complaint alleging that he received and possessed child pornography in Bernalillo County, N.M. At the time, Schwartzrock was a children’s minister in an Albuquerque-area church. He has been in federal custody since his arrest. On April 24, 2013, Schwartzrock was indicted and charged with three counts of receipt of child pornography and two counts of possession of child pornography.
During today’s hearing, Schwartzrock entered a guilty plea to Count 2 of the indictment, charging him with receipt of child pornography. In his plea agreement, Schwartzrock acknowledged that HSI and NMSP executed a search warrant at his residence on April 3, 2013 and seized computers and computer-related media. The search warrant was issued based on an undercover investigation by HSI in Philadelphia that began in Oct. 2012, and targeted individuals who used a photo-sharing website to possess, receive and distribute child pornography. HSI in Albuquerque began investigating Schwartzrock in mid-March 2013 after HSI in Philadelphia determined that an individual in Albuquerque was accessing the targeted website and learned that Schwartzrock was the subscriber for the IP Address that allegedly was used to download sexually explicit images of children.
Schwartzrock admitted voluntarily participating in a recorded interview on April 3, 2013. During the interview, he admitted that he began looking for images of naked boys, with a preference for elementary school aged children, several months earlier and that he downloaded child pornography images from the Internet. Schwartzrock also acknowledged that a forensic preview of his computers and computer-related media have uncovered over 12,000 images consistent with child pornography and child erotica. The plea agreement also states that an extensive computer forensic examination of Schwartzrock’s computers and computer-related media is ongoing.
Schwartzrock remains in federal custody pending his sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.
This case was investigated by the Albuquerque office of HSI, the NMSP and the New Mexico Regional Forensic Lab, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Charlyn E. Rees. It was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and DOJ’s Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit http://www.justice.gov/psc/.
The Operation also was brought as a part of the New Mexico Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force’s mission, which is to locate, track, and capture Internet child sexual predators and Internet child pornographers in New Mexico. There are 64 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies associated with the ICAC Task Force, which is funded by a grant administered by the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office. Anyone with information relating to suspected child predators and suspected child abuse is encouraged to contact federal or local law enforcement.