Federal officials have released the names of 14 Iowans who are facing charges in a statewide child pornography investigation. Eleven of the suspects were initially identified when search warrants were served last November. Matthew Whitaker, the U.S. Attorney for Iowa’s Southern District, says it took some time for investigators to piece together all the evidence.
"When we executed the search warrants, we only had probable cause that there were computers at those locations," Whitaker said. "We had to further our investigation, do interviews and also (conduct) computer forensics to make sure they still had the illegal contraband on them."
The 11 people named in the case, dubbed "Operation Wire Breaker," are all charged with receipt and possession of child pornography. Some are charged with distribution. Three other men are facing charges in a case that’s unrelated to "Wire Breaker." Of the 14 total suspects, two are charged with producing child porn.
Whitaker says the young victims of the production crimes are believed to be from Iowa. He says it appears there were at least two victims. Chad Cunningham of Norwalk and Jeremiah Windschitl of Council Bluffs are identified as the men charged with child porn production.
The other people charged are Ralph Johnson of Clemons, Hugo Alberto Duran-Garcia of Des Moines, Matthew Collins of Council Bluffs, Jerry DeAngelo Valdez and Ramon Marcelo Valdez, both of Des Moines, Todd Montgomery of Marshalltown, Brian Tracy of Davenport, Benjamin Lucas of Earlham, Jennifer Abbott of Iowa City, Christopher Conger of Buffalo (Iowa), Robert Hawes of Des Moines and Matthew McArthur of Clive.
Whitaker says, if convicted, the punishment could range from five to 20 years in prison for distribution or receipt of child pornography. Possession of child porn is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, while the penalty for production is 15 years to life behind bars. Three of the defendants – Johnson, Cunningham and Hawes – are already in custody. Duran-Garcia recently escaped from a halfway house. A warrant has been issued for his arrest. The other defendants are receiving summons to appear in court.