Man faces Internet child porn charges

Undercover agent set up sting operation with suspect online

June 11, 1999|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

A 52-year-old Annapolis man was charged with possessing child pornography yesterday in a federal indictment that culminated an FBI online sting operation investigating sex crimes against children.

The case against Jeffrey D. Hooper of the 1800 block of Manor Green Court was based on an undercover federal agent's Internet conversations with him and the seizure of an extensive collection of child pornography videotapes and computer images from Hooper's home last month, according to court records.

Investigators also reported recovering a large collection of firearms, including rifles, shotguns and semiautomatic handguns, replicas of police badges, fireworks and instructions for making a bomb. They also seized two electronic stun guns that Hooper said he had purchased through an online auction site, court records say.

The report that police items were seized "adds to the significance of this case," said U.S. Postal Inspector Thomas E. Boyle.

Hooper, who Boyle said was a self-employed consultant for printing companies, could not be reached to comment.

The Annapolis man became the target of a federal investigation after an undercover agent identified him as having an interest in obtaining child pornography. The agent, U.S. Postal Inspector Robert Northrop -- who corresponded via computer with Hooper over four weeks in March and April -- was working with "Innocent Images," the FBI's undercover Internet operation aimed at catching sex offenders online.

Northrop posed as a pedophile with a child pornography collection and indicated that he was willing to trade items with Hooper, who used the name "Tots4me" in his America Online chat-room exchanges, according to a federal affidavit.

In a March 21 e-mail message, Northrop told Hooper that "my pics and tapes are also rare and very hard to come by, unless of course you can make originals on your own. They are considered taboo, exotic and down right un-legit or illegal in some zealot circles and parts of the uptight world including these united states," the affidavit states.

In an e-mail on March 23, Hooper tells Northrop "I do prefer the under 10 set I do have lots of pics -- don't know what you have or what you need to fill your collection," according to the affidavit.

Over the next few weeks, according to the e-mail messages in the affidavit, the two agreed to swap pornographic materials. Hooper instructed Northrop to send the child pornography movies to an Annapolis address.

Northrop determined that Hooper had rented the box at Mail Boxes, Etc.

On April 30, after Hooper had retrieved the videotapes from his rented mailbox, federal agents and county police officers searched his Annapolis house, where they found Hooper watching one of the child pornography videotapes, court records said. He told federal agents that he and his wife lived alone in the home.

Hooper admitted to federal agents that he possessed child pornography but denied having sex with children, according to court records. Federal agents said they seized Hooper's two computers, his weapons and other materials. From his truck, investigators retrieved a handgun, a tear-gas canister and an expired emergency medical technician badge.

Boyle said Hooper told investigators he was a paramedic in another state.

County police said they seized Hooper's two stun guns -- one found in his house and the other in his truck -- and charged him with violating a county law that prohibits possession of electronic weapons. Hooper told police he bought the stun guns through the E-bay Internet auction site and was unaware that they were illegal, court records said.

Sun staff writer Devon Spurgeon contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 6/11/99

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