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In Pensacola, Florida, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida Christopher P. Canova announced that a U.S. District Court found 36-year-old Nicholas E. Fogarty guilty of committing two child pornography crimes. According to Florida Department of Correction records, this is not Fogarty’s first rodeo involving child abuse content. In fact, he has already been to prison on some of the same charges.
Fogarty fell into a trap set by undercover police investigators on an ongoing effort to crack down on the Kik Messenger “groups” that exist solely to share pictures and videos of child sexual exploitation, groom children, or provide links to content stored on darknet sites. The Kik groups are not a new development in the child abuse circles; people have been calling on Kik to do something about the groups for a long time now. Kik, like so many other social platforms, either lacks the ability to end this activity or fails to see it as a priority.
In June 2017, the undercover officer worked with the North Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force to create a Kik account and successfully pose as a minor female. The North Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force was credited for the takedown but the task force was not alone. The press release (which has been pulled from the Department of Justice website) also credited one unsurprising federal agency: Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations. The announcement also credited an agency rarely seen in these investigations: the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. And then you have the local police departments, etc. (Press Release on Scribd)
The investigation pursued Kik groups that existed to further child abuse through contact with underage females. More specifically, the investigator(s) focused on groups that wanted to engage in sexual activities with minors. During the investigation, one user caught law enforcement’s attention after he created a Kik group called “Tweenteenlove.” The group was a perfect target because it shared child abuse content; the unknown group creator instructed members to find young females and add them to the Kik group; and the creator gave instructions on accessing child abuse content and sites on the darknet.
Police, through undisclosed methods, learned the leader’s identity. Palm Beach Gardens resident Nicholas E. Fogarty. (They probably subpoenaed Kik.) Florida law enforcement raided Fogarty and discovered more than enough evidence to press charges. They found the Tor Browser on a computer that had up to 5,000 pictures and videos depicting child abuse. Fogarty caught one count of advertisement of child pornography and one count of distribution of child pornography.
And in March 2018, the U.S. District Court in Pensacola found Fogarty guilty of both charges. In June, Fogarty will appear for his sentencing hearing. He faces mandatory minimums on both charges. A minimum of 15 years in prison for the advertisement charge and a mandatory minimum of five years in prison for the distribution charge.