Undercover NZ Police detectives helped FBI prosecute Florida man for child pornography

NZ Police helped the FBI catch a man in possession of a huge amount of child pornography.
NZ Police helped the FBI catch a man in possession of a huge amount of child pornography. Photo credit: File

Warning: This article contains details that may disturb.

New Zealand Police have helped the FBI catch a Florida man in possession of pornography of children as young as three.

In June 2014, Kiwi detectives working undercover gained the trust of Robert Sciolino, 51, who unknowingly sent them multiple files depicting child pornography.

They were working in association with the FBI’s Violent Crimes Against Children International Taskforce (VCACITF).

As a result of NZ Police's covert work online, US police were able to execute a search warrant at Sciolino's residence where they recovered two computers and two flash drives.

Some 354 images and 619 pornographic videos were found on the devices, some depicting children as young as three being sexually abused.

Between December 2015 and January 2016, FBI agents working undercover downloaded child pornography files from a user using unsecured wireless routers.

That user turned out to be Sciolino, who was found downloading child pornography from his car in a grocery store carpark in Tampa, Florida. The devices in his car were found to contain 1539 images and 81 pornographic videos featuring children.

On June 11 (local time) Sciolino was sentenced to 10 years in prison for receipt and possession of child pornography. He was also ordered to pay US$57,000 (NZ$86,760) in restitution to the victims as well as forfeit the six devices on which he had stored the pornography.

Detective Senior Sergeant John Michael from the Police Covert Online Team said NZ Police's involvement in the investigation shows the high level of international cooperation when it comes to combating online child exploitation.

He said New Zealand is seen as a "shining light" of law enforcement cooperation by international partners in the way Police works with Customs and the Department of Internal Affairs to help victims and bring offenders to justice.