School Occupational Therapist Charged With Sexual Exploitation Of A Child And Receipt And Distribution Of Child Pornography
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and James T. Hayes, Jr., the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Office of the United States Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), announced today the arrest of BRIAN FANELLI for possession of child pornography. FANELLI, the Chief of the Mount Pleasant, New York, Police Department, was arrested by HSI agents today at his residence in Mahopac, New York and presented in White Plains federal court before United States Magistrate Judge Lisa Margaret Smith.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated: “Given the allegations, this case is particularly disturbing and sad. A senior law enforcement officer, sworn to uphold the law, stands accused of breaking the law. And it is the law designed to protect the youngest and most vulnerable of our population from vile exploitation.”
HSI Special Agent-in-Charge James T. Hayes, Jr. stated: “Police officers – and especially police executives – are understandably held to a higher standard of conduct than ordinary citizens. The defendant’s alleged acquisition and viewing of sexually explicit images of children irrevocably breached the trust the public had in him. The widespread exploitation of children in the United States is nothing short of an epidemic that requires the coordinated focus of law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and the general public alike. HSI is committed to devoting the necessary resources to protect the children in our communities from those intent on victimizing them.”
According to the allegations in the criminal Complaint filed today in White Plains federal court:
From at least as early as October 2013, through in or about January 2014, FANELLI used a Peer-to-Peer File Sharing Program (“the “P2P Network”) to download more than 120 files containing images and videos believed to be child pornography and made those files available to other P2P Network users through his computer’s shared folder on the P2P Network program. Additionally, on three occasions, DHS agents acting in an undercover capacity and using the P2P Network downloaded from FANELLI’s computer files containing images and videos believed to contain child pornography.
Acting pursuant to a search warrant, DHS agents searched FANELLI’s residence today and located three computers. During the execution of the search warrant, FANELLI was advised of his Miranda rights, after which he voluntarily told DHS agents, among other things, that he has taught sexual abuse awareness classes to elementary and middle school-age students for more than one year, and that approximately one year ago, he began viewing child pornography from his home using the P2P Network – at first as research for the classes he was teaching, but shortly thereafter for personal interest.
FANELLI, 54, of Mahopac, New York, is charged with one count of possessing child pornography, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. The count also carries a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.
Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the Department of Homeland Security. He added that the investigation is continuing.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE. Investigators staff this hotline around the clock. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may also be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com
The prosecution is being overseen by the Office’s White Plains Division and the Public Corruption Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Andrew D. Goldstein and Lee Renzin are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.