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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of California

Friday, May 12, 2017

Child Pornography Charges Brought Against Bay Area Babysitters

SAN FRANCISCO - A federal grand jury indicted Bryan Petersen and Ryan Michael Spencer yesterday with conspiracy to distribute and receive child pornography, distribution of child pornography, receipt of child pornography, and possession of child pornography, announced United States Attorney Brian Stretch and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett.

According to the papers filed publicly in the case, the FBI began investigating Petersen, 24, of Tiburon, after a witness reported to law enforcement that Petersen had child pornography on his computer and in a Dropbox account.  After executing a search warrant at Petersen’s residence, the FBI learned that Petersen had allegedly received thousands of images and videos containing child pornography from Spencer, 19, of Aptos.  The FBI also learned that the two men worked with children—Petersen as a babysitter, chess coach, and tutor in Tiburon and Spencer as a babysitter, camp counselor, and teacher-in-training in Aptos—and that they had allegedly been taking and exchanging lascivious photographs of children entrusted to their care. 

Petersen was arrested on April 26, 2017, and Spencer was arrested the following day.  Each defendant was charged in the indictment with one count of conspiracy to distribute and receive child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(2) and (b)(1); distribution of child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(2); receipt of child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(2); and possession of child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(4)(B). Both defendants are in custody and are scheduled to be arraigned on May 16, 2017, at 9:30 a.m., before United States Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero.          

An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  If convicted of any of the charges, the defendants face a maximum sentence of twenty years’ imprisonment and a fine of $250,000, plus potential restitution.  If convicted of distribution, receipt, or conspiracy to distribute and receive child pornography, the defendants will also be subject to a mandatory five-year minimum prison term.  However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie D. Garcia is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Heidi Dittmer.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

The FBI has created an email for parents and guardians who have reason to believe their child/children may be a victim in this investigation.  Please email BayAreaTips@ic.fbi.gov and include your full name, phone number, your child’s full name and age, why you believe your child may be a victim, the date range in which your child may have been in contact with the subject and the venues where your child may have been in contact with the subject.  This email address has been set up specifically for this investigation.  An agent may contact you to gather further information.  Your patience is appreciated at this time.

Cyber Crime
Updated September 19, 2017