Audubon Park Fire Chief Arrested For Allegedly Using Computer To Distribute Child Pornography Online

Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that the chief of the Audubon Park Volunteer Fire Company in Camden County, N.J., was arrested Wednesday night on charges that he used a computer at the fire station to share child pornography online using a peer-to-peer file-sharing network.

John Terruso, 44, of Marlton, N.J., chief of the Audubon Park Volunteer Fire Company, was arrested last night at the fire station on charges of second-degree distribution of child pornography and third-degree possession of child pornography. The charges stem from an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice and ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Newark, assisted by the Camden County Prosecutor's Office and the Haddon Township Police Department. Investigators executed a search warrant at the fire station at the time of Terruso's arrest. It is alleged that Terruso knowingly used Internet file-sharing software to make multiple files of child pornography available for any other user to download from "shared folders" that he controlled on a computer at the fire station on Road C.

The investigation began when a special agent of HSI was monitoring a file-sharing network popular with offenders who seek child pornography. The agent was using advanced technology to search for telltale digital "fingerprints" of known child pornography as well as search terms associated with child pornography. He identified an Internet Protocol address, ultimately traced to a computer at the fire station, which had child pornography available in a shared folder. He partially downloaded a video from the folder of an adult male raping a prepubescent girl. During the investigation, he identified additional child pornography in a shared folder on a computer at the fire station, including videos of prepubescent boys having sex with other boys and adult males. The investigation revealed that Terruso allegedly was the person using the computer to share child pornography. During the search last night, investigators seized four laptop computers – including a computer personally owned by Terruso – a desktop computer, two external hard drives, a tablet, thumb drives, and cell phones. A preliminary review of the equipment revealed over 1,000 files of suspected child pornography.

"We charge that Terruso sordidly abused the trust placed in him as fire chief by viewing and sharing child pornography at the fire station," said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. "In doing so, he allegedly linked himself to the depraved network of offenders who, by sharing child pornography, perpetually re-victimize the children involved and directly motivate those who sexually exploit and torture children to create these vile materials."

"During the past three years, we have worked with HSI and the New Jersey State Police to charge over 100 offenders with child pornography crimes, including 80 offenders charged in three major sweeps targeting those who use file-sharing networks to distribute child pornography," said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. "This case is particularly egregious because Terruso allegedly used his position as fire chief to commit these crimes in a public facility."

"To discover that someone the public counts on in times of the direst need is allegedly victimizing the most vulnerable members of our community is both heartbreaking and disturbing," said acting Special Agent in Charge Kevin Kelly of HSI Newark. "HSI will continue to work with our partners in the Division of Criminal Justice to pursue these kinds of cases, stop the criminals and bring them to justice."

The investigation was conducted for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau by Deputy Attorney General John Nicodemo, Detective Richard DaSilva Jr., Detective Kimberly Allen and Sgt. Thomas Turley, under the supervision of Lt. Lisa Shea, Deputy Chief of Detectives William Fredrick, Deputy Attorney General Kenneth Sharpe, who is Deputy Bureau Chief, and Supervising Deputy Attorney General Michael Monahan, who is Bureau Chief.

Acting Attorney General Hoffman thanked ICE Homeland Security Investigations Newark for their work on the investigation. Acting Attorney General Hoffman also thanked the Camden County Prosecutor's Office and the Haddon Township Police Department for their extensive assistance. Hoffman specifically thanked Capt. Scott Bishop of the Haddon Township Police Department and Sgt. Thomas DiNunzio and retired Detective Gary McBride of the Camden County Prosecutor's Office.

Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000. There is a presumption of imprisonment for the charge of possession of child pornography if the defendant is found to have possessed more than 100 files of child pornography.

The charges are merely accusations and Terruso is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Because the charges are indictable offenses, they will be presented to a grand jury for potential indictment.

Terruso was lodged in the Camden County Jail last night with bail set at $150,000, no 10 percent.

Acting Attorney General Hoffman and Director Honig urged anyone with information about distribution of child pornography on the Internet – or about suspected improper contact by unknown persons communicating with children via the Internet or possible exploitation or sexual abuse of children – to please contact the New Jersey Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Tipline at 888-648-6007.