Man charged in computer child-porn case

January 26, 1996|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

A 50-year-old Silver Spring man has been charged with using his computer to transmit sexually explicit pictures of children, the latest in a series of arrests by federal agents posing as minors in on-line services.

Michael Bruce Sassani, who lists his employment as a free-lance photographer, was arrested Wednesday while vacationing at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., federal prosecutors said. He is charged with five counts of receiving and distributing visual depictions of minors in sexually explicit conduct.

Prosecutors allege that Mr. Sassani transmitted the explicit pictures -- known as "graphic image files" or "gifs" -- through a commercial on-line service, apparently thinking he was sending the files to a child he had met via computer link. But the person he met was actually an undercover federal agent, prosecutors said.

Mr. Sassani sent the pictures after an on-line conversation he started under the computer code name "Big Mike 8," a federal affidavit said.

The FBI raided Mr. Sassani's home in September as part of a nationwide crackdown into the transmission of pornographic images of children over commercial computer services.

Investigators refused to identify the on-line service used in the investigation. They said they are looking into where the sexually explicit pictures came from and who may have taken the photographs.

Agents have been working undercover from computer terminals for more than two years as part of "Operation Innocent Images," a child-porn computer probe. Pretending to be children, the agents look to engage in electronic conversations with suspected pedophiles.

If convicted, Mr. Sassani faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count for which he has been charged.

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