A 54-year-old paralegal from Boynton Beach, Florida, faces federal child pornography charges after a multiagency law enforcement sting.
Richard Russo’s job title is “paralegal specialist” with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Department of Homeland Security’s largest federal law enforcement agency. But now he is a defendant in a case involving the FBI and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, according to a Department of Justice statement released Wednesday.
Prosecutors charged Russo by criminal complaint with receipt and possession of child pornography—a charge with a minimum sentence of five years in prison and a statutory maximum term of 20 years’ imprisonment.
Russo’s attorney is M. Caroline McCrae, of the Federal Public Defender’s Office in West Palm Beach. She did not respond to a request for comment by press time, and she had filed no responses except to invoke her client’s right to remain silent.
The government’s court filings claim the investigation began after an internet service provider sent in a tip in July 2017 about suspected images of child pornography in an email upload. Another tip came in November 2017 from a second company, identifying an account belonging to a user with “R.S.” initials and an Outlook email address.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant in March and seized several devices with information implicating multiple suspects, according to the charging document.
“Included in the communications were topics of sex with canines and ‘young,’” according to the complaint.
Prosecutors allege videos uncovered in the investigation show adult men having intercourse with infants and boys younger than 15.
Deputies arrested Russo and held him without bond. A preliminary hearing and arraignment are scheduled for June 14 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
This case was part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide Department of Justice initiative to fight what prosecutors say is “the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse” via the internet. The effort includes U.S. attorneys’ offices and the Justice Department’s Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section. It works to identify and rescue victims by marshaling federal, state and local resources.
Russo’s case appears to have involved the FBI Child Exploitation Task Force, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Corey Steinberg is prosecuting.
The case is pending before U.S. Magistrate Judge William Matthewman.