News and Press Releases

News and Press Releases

Woman sentenced for producing child pornography

December 21, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS – Earlier today in federal court in Minneapolis, a 45-year-old woman was
sentenced for producing sexually explicit photographs of two young girls. United States District
Court Judge Ann D. Montgomery sentenced Donna Mary Zauner, no known address, to 216
months in prison on one count of production of child pornography. Zauner was indicted on April
12, 2011, and pleaded guilty on August 1, 2011.

In her plea agreement, Zauner admitted that beginning in September of 2010, she and Alec
James Tafolla, age 52, of Claymont, Delaware, used two girls, who were both under the age of
12 at the time, to produce sexually explicit images of the children. Zauner admitted taking the
photos and sending them to Tafolla, at his direction. The photos were taken with Zauner’s cell
phone and sent to Tafolla via text message.

On July 25, 2011 Tafolla was sentenced to 192 months in prison followed by 15 years of
supervised release on one count of production of child pornography in connection with this
crime. He was indicted on January 11, 2011, and pleaded guilty on April 14, 2011. In his plea
agreement, Tafolla admitted directing Zauner to take several of the pornographic pictures using
Zauner’s cell phone.

According to law enforcement documents filed in these cases, a Winona resident contacted
police on October 6, 2010, to inform the police of a pornographic image of a young girl found on
his computer. Previously, the man had been in a relationship with Zauner and had allowed her to
live with him beginning on September 9, 2010. However, on October 6, 2010, Zauner left his
residence without notice. The man checked his computer history in an attempt to find
information about Zauner’s whereabouts but, instead, came across an email account he did not
recognize. In this email account, he discovered the sexually explicit image of a child attached to
an email in the account. Police determined the account belonged to Tafolla.

Later that night, authorities located Tafolla and Zauner in a Winona hotel. Police recovered
from Zauner’s cell phone an additional 23 sexually explicit photos of the two children. They
further learned that Zauner and Tafolla had first met in August 2010 when Tafolla drove Zauner
from Las Vegas, where she had been living, to New York. In early September, Tafolla had again
given Zauner a ride, this time from New York to Minnesota. The two remained in contact while
Zauner was living in New York and Minnesota. Zauner took the sexually explicit photographs of
the children and sent them to Tafolla while she was living in Minnesota and Tafolla was living in

These cases are the result of an investigation by the Winona Police Department and the
Minnesota Cyber Crimes Task Force, which is sponsored by the Federal Bureau of Investigation
and the U.S. Secret Service. They were prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen B.

Presently, the Justice Department is funding a study concerning the correlation between
involvement in child pornography and the hands-on sexual abuse of children. A 2008 study
(The Butner Study) published in the Journal of Family Violence found that up to 80 percent of
federal inmates incarcerated for possession, receipt, or distribution of child pornography also
admitted to hands-on sexual abuse of children, ranging from touching to rape.

The U.S. Department of Justice is committed to combating the sexual exploitation of
children, particularly via the Internet. In Fiscal Year 2010, 2,235 defendants pleaded guilty to
federal child pornography charges, 2,222 of whom were sentenced to prison. In Fiscal Year
2009, 2,083 defendants were sentenced to prison on child pornography charges. For more
information about these efforts, please visit the Department’s Project Safe Childhood website,

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