A Sarasota, Florida man was arrested on Thursday after his wife discovered his stash of child pornography on his flash drive and called the police. Charles Parsons’ wife says she grew suspicious when she saw her husband hiding his cell phone and while she might have suspected infidelity, she couldn’t have been expecting to find images suggesting that her 48-year-old husband dabbles in pedophilia.
Parsons’ wife told police that she also noticed her husband guarding his search history. After she searched through their house, she found a USB drive in a dresser drawer, the Herald-Tribune reports. When she opened the files on the drive, she was stunned at what she found and called the sheriff’s office on Monday.
Police got a search warrant and upon executing it found that the files included 2,076 images of naked girls and 40 videos of females in sexual acts. Some of the girls depicted were as young as six years old, according to a press release from the Sarasota Sheriff’s Office.
Officers interviewed and arrested Parsons before taking him to the Sarasota County Jail where he is being held without bond. He is charged with 40 felony counts of possession: sexual performance by a child. Police say that the investigation is still ongoing and that more charges are pending.
According to the Florida Penal Code, the counts against Parsons are most likely third-degree felonies. Therefore, each of the charges is punishable by up to five years in prison.
While child pornography arrests aren’t uncommon, the stash of images and videos found on Parsons’ thumb drive is staggering. Getting to the root of child pornography can be difficult for authorities since the ringleaders behind these crimes operate on the so-called “dark web.” Users who spend time on that nefarious sector of the internet generally use a “Tor” network that masks their IP address and makes them able to browse anonymously.
Busting pedophilia rings requires significant footwork and digging on law enforcement agencies — almost always, the FBI is involved and often their investigations require assistance from international police forces like Interpol. In May, police scored a huge victory against online pedophiles when they they arrested 58-year-old Steven Chase of Florida who was behind the network “Playpen.”
Chase’s website contained thousands of images and videos and when authorities brought him down, they were able to get information on hundreds of his users. The FBI called the bust “the most successful effort to date against users of Tor’s hidden service sites.” During that raid, they managed to arrest over 350 U.S. citizens and 548 suspects abroad. They also rescued or identified 296 sexually abused children. The investigation behind the arrests was termed “Operation Pacifier” and led to authorities discovering users in Israel, Turkey, Chile, Peru and across Europe.
However, the FBI’s behavior in busting Chase’s network of pedophiles raised concerns — they essentially hacked into Playpen’s servers and some of their hacks led to nations hostile to the United States (at least online) including China, Iran and Russia. By hacking into servers overseas, the bureau may have opened themselves up to hacking from the hostile powers, who are known to have very skilled teams of online spies, International Business Times notes.