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April 11, 2011

SCHOOL IT DIRECTOR ORDERED HELD WITHOUT BOND ON ATTEMPTED DISTRIBUTION AND POSSESSION OF CHILD PORNOGRAPHY CHARGES

(HOUSTON) –  An Arkansas school Information Technology (IT) director has been ordered to remain in federal custody without bond pending trial on charges of attempted distribution and possession of child pornography, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.

Mario Joseph Ruffino, 29, a former Houston resident, was arrested on March 15, 2011, in Arkansas and has been ordered held without bond following a hearing held before U.S. Magistrate Judge George Hanks on Friday, April 8, 2011. Indicted on Feb. 23, 2011, Ruffin will remain in custody pending trial on the attempted distribution of child pornography and possession of child pornography charges alleged in the indictment. Ruffino has entered a plea of not guilty to the charges and is set for trial before U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon on June 6, 2011.

United States Magistrate Judge George Hanks’ decision to deny bond was based in part on testimony presented during Friday’s hearing that Ruffino allegedly made child pornography available to others through “shared” folders on his computer accessible through peer-to-peer software over the Internet. A task force officer attempted to download multiple images of child pornography made available by Ruffino to those using similar software. The court also heard testimony that Ruffino had one computer at his residence when contacted by law enforcement in June 2010 which was found upon examination to contain more than 600 digital images and approximately 121 videos of child pornography including images depicting children in bondage. Additionally, these images included children under 12 being sexually violated by adults and photographed in positions which caused their genitalia to be displayed in a lewd/lascivious manner. 

Also considered by the court in its determination was testimony that at the time of the investigation and when contacted by law enforcement, Ruffino was an intern with the Harris County Department of Education. He thereafter relocated to Conway, Ark., where he was the IT director at an elementary school.
 
Ruffino faces a minimum sentence of five years and a maximum of 20 years imprisonment if convicted of the attempted distribution of child pornography charge and a maximum fine of $250,000. Possession of child pornography carries a maximum punishment of up to 10 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000 upon conviction. Each offense also carries a maximum of a life term of supervised release during which the court can impose a number of special conditions designed to protect children. Additionally, if convicted, registration as a sex offender is mandatory.

This case brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the 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 www.projectsafechildhood.gov. The FBI Innocent Images Task Force includes members of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. 

Assistant United States Attorney Sherri L. Zack is prosecuting the case.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.

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