Matthew G.T. Martin, United States Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina, announced that a man from Snow Camp, North Carolina, was sentenced to 78 months in prison for possessing “child pornography.” According to the announcement, federal authorities caught the man downloading illegal photos and videos from the darknet in 2017.
According to court documents filed by the U.S. Attorney, an individual (undisclosed identity) filled a report at the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) regarding Samuel Dexter Ray, 60, and his activity around a minor girl identified as “Minor #1.” The individual’s report described, in detail, Ray’s grooming and potential sexual abuse of a minor. The individual told the police that he or she had attempted to talk to the minor about the behavior. The minor explained that nothing has been going on between her and Ray.
Alamance County Sheriff’s Office Detective Sergeant Aundrea Azelton executed a search warrant at Ray’s Snow Camp home on September 15. Officers seized several electronic devices and storage devices owned by Ray. When questioned, Ray denied any type of sexual activity with the minor and denied having child abuse content on his computer. He added that they may find “questionable” material on his laptop, though.
The following day, Detective Sergeant Azelton followed up with Ray for a second interview. During the interview, Ray explained that he had the Tor browser on his laptop and accessed darknet sites to find partially nude girls. Not for sexual reasons, he explained. He told the detective that partially nude girls were easier to draw. His story changed throughout the interview. Towards the end, he admitted that investigators would find a “collection” of content depicting fully nude 10-year-old girls. He said that none of the pictures depicted Minor #1.
One month later, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) joined the case for undisclosed reasons. Special Agent Tara Cataldo executed a search warrant at Ray’s house. The second search yielded several more electronic devices. Days later, police found child abuse content on his devices. They found pictures and videos of Minor #1. They found the Tor browser and a torrent program that had downloaded files with tiles consistent with titles of known child abuse content. They arrested Ray.
“Further forensic analysis of the seized devices revealed that the ASUS laptop contained deleted child pornography files and evidence that the TOR browser was used to view child pornography,” the complaint explained.
Ray agreed an interview with Det. Sgt. Azelton and SA Cataldo. He admitted his Tor use to download and share child abuse content. In February 2018, Ray pleaded guilty to a single count of receipt of child pornography. Chief United States District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder, in July, sentenced Ray to 78 months in prison and eight years of supervised release.
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