Department of Justice seal U.S. Department of Justice

Debra Wong Yang
United States Attorney
Central District of California


United States Courthouse
312 North Spring Street
Los Angeles, California 90012
Release No. 06-155

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PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 9, 2006
For Information, Contact Public Affairs
Thom Mrozek (213) 894-6947

18 SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA MEN CHARGED WITH POSSESSING CHILD PORNOGRAPHY THEY DOWNLOADED FROM INTERNET


Los Angeles, CA - Eighteen men from Los Angeles County, Orange County and the Inland Empire have been charged in recent weeks with possession of child pornography. The local defendants are among approximately 125 defendants who have been charged across the nation as a result of Operation Emissary, an investigation into individuals who subscribed to a website that offered images and movies of hardcore child pornography.

All of the local defendants are charged with possession of child pornography. Fourteen of the defendants have been charged in United States District Court and face potential sentences of 10 years in federal prison. Four of the men have been charged by local authorities.

The last federal defendant taken into custody– Christopher Buessem, 45, of Studio City – surrendered Tuesday afternoon to federal authorities. Appearing that day in United States District Court in Los Angeles, Buessem was ordered to appear in court for an arraignment on January 8 and was freed on a $50,000 bond.

"Seeking justice for exploited children is one of the most important responsibilities that we have," said United States Attorney Debra Wong Yang. "One of the unfortunate effects of new technologies like the Internet is the increased accessibility to child pornography. But this has only increased our resolve to pursue those who decide to exploit the most vulnerable among us."

Julie L. Myers, Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, stated: "The scope of this investigation and the number of arrests that have been made so far are a clear indication of ICE's resolve to search out those who use the Internet to sexually exploit innocent children. Some predators mistakenly believe the anonymity of cyberspace shields them from scrutiny; in fact, their use of computers and the Internet have given us new tools in our enforcement efforts."

Eleven of the defendants facing federal charges as a result of Operation Emissary have also been released on bond. They are:

Scott Sperling, 47, of Granada Hills, who was arrested on October 16 and is scheduled to be arraigned on November 20;

John Bernard Turner, 24, of San Pedro, who was arrested on October 12 and is scheduled to be arraigned on December 11;

Thomas Paul Rossi, 56, of Anaheim, who was arrested on October 16, pleaded not guilty last week and is scheduled to go on trial on December 12;

Jeffrey Alan Vantwist, 31, of Westminster, who was arrested on October 16, pleaded not guilty last week and is scheduled to go on trial on December 12;

Carl Andrew Hooper, 49, of Mission Viejo, who was arrested on October 17, pleaded not guilty last week and is scheduled to go on trial on December 12;

Timothy Mongeon, 55, of Sun City, who was arrested on October 12 and is scheduled to go to trial on February 6;

Darryl Salisbury, 68,of Montclair, who was arrested on October 12 on two counts of child pornography and is scheduled to go on trial on February 6;

Kenneth Swiderski, 56, of Riverside, who was arrested on October 12 and is scheduled to go on trial on February 6;

Andrew Patton Fluhrer, 47, of Whitter, who was arrested on October 18 and is scheduled to be arraigned on November 20;

Robert Andrew Pedersen, 46, of Van Nuys,who was arrested on October 17 and is scheduled to be arraigned on November 20; and

Robert Valantine, 21, of Glendale, who was arrested on October 13 and is scheduled to go on trial on December 19.

The thirteenth defendant charged by the United States Attorney's Office – Wayne R. Fisher, 48, of Atwater Village, remains in custody because he has not been able to meet the conditions of his bond. Fisher was arrested on October 18 and is scheduled to be arraigned on November 20.

The fourteenth defendant charged in federal court – Kirk Dewitt, 40, of Apple Valley – is a fugitive currently being sought by authorities.

As part of Operation Emissary, four defendants have been charged with possession child pornography by local authorities. The four defendants, who are all free on bond, are:

Bruce Waldhauser, 50, of Banning, who was arrested on October 27 and is currently free on bond (Riverside County District Attorney is prosecuting);

Gordon Paul Zahorecz, 27, of San Gabriel, who is due in court in Alhambra today for a pre-trial conference (Los Angeles County District Attorney is prosecuting);

Christopher Ingoglia, 35, of Mission Viejo, whose case is pending (Orange County District Attorney in prosecuting); and

Wendell Johnson, 57, of Lake Forest, whose case is pending (Orange County District Attorney's Office).

Criminal complaints and indictments contain allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

These cases were investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. For further information on Operation Emissary, see: http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/nj/press/files/pdffiles/emisrel.pdf.

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Release No. 06-155

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