Press Releases


"Operation Darknet"

Contact: Lieutenant Colonel Raymond B. Studley, Deputy Superintendent/Chief of Field Operations Telephone: (401) 444-1002

On April 12, 2012, ten teams totaling more than fifty (50) state, federal and local law enforcement agents fanned out across Rhode Island, armed with search warrants targeting individuals identified in a lengthy, multi-agency investigation into online child pornography and child exploitation.

Over a several-month period, members of the Rhode Island State Police Computer Crimes Unit/Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (RI ICAC), in conjunction with the United States Attorney's Office and the Rhode Island Attorney General's Office, initiated an undercover, online investigation dubbed "Operation Darknet," which identified fourteen (14) Rhode Island residences actively involved in obtaining and sharing images of child pornography on the Internet. Investigators successfully obtained direct downloads of child pornography from the suspects' residences.

As a result of these downloads, search warrants were obtained for the residences. More than sixty (60) federal, state, and local law enforcement personnel consisting of Rhode Island State Police, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)-Homeland Security Investigations, United States Marshals Service (USMS), RI ICAC Task Force affiliates, Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS), and Probation and Parole executed fourteen (14) court-authorized search warrants throughout the state. Upon execution of the search warrants, detectives discovered thousands of images of child pornography and videos. Child protective services personnel from the Department of Children Youth and Families (DCYF) and the Children's Advocacy Center (CAC), Day One, also assisted. As a result of the search warrant executions, investigators seized a total of one hundred and eighty-five (185) pieces of digital media; to include computers, hard drives and other periphery devices.

The Rhode Island State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (RIICAC) is a Department of Justice, grant-funded program administered by the Rhode Island State Police Detective Division and comprised of six (6) State Police Detectives, a Detective from the Providence Police Department, West Warwick Police Department, Coventry Police Department, Johnston Police Department, Warwick Police Department, Pawtucket Police Department, Jamestown Police Department, Richmond Police Department, an agent from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Unites States Postal Inspectors Service, and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The objective of the RIICAC is to form strong working relationships among local, state and federal law enforcement in order to effectively and efficiently prevent, detect, investigate, and prosecute online child exploitation and child pornography crimes.

Under the direction of Colonel Steven G. O'Donnell, the Rhode Island State Police Computer Crimes Unit/ICAC Task Force has taken a proactive investigative approach to capture the worst of the worst Cyber criminals and stop sexual predators from exploiting children online. Colonel O'Donnell, noting the success of the Task Force said, "The Rhode Island State Police will continue to pursue individuals who exploit vulnerable children. The Computer Crimes Unit and the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force is committed to this most important mission. It is incumbent upon us to do the best job possible to protect our children from those members of our society who prey on children, and request any resident of the state who suspects this activity to contact the Computer Crimes Unit."

"Individuals who traffic in child pornography are as dangerous as those who physically violate children, only they believe they can get away with their crimes by hiding behind their computers. Today's arrests should be a reminder to these child predators that we see what they're doing online and that ultimately we will find, arrest and prosecute them," said Attorney General Peter Kilmartin. "I commend the work of the Rhode Island State Police Computer Crimes Unit and the ICAC Task Force for their outstanding work on this case."

Child pornography has exploded as Internet use has become commonplace. Experts say the images increasingly seem to feature younger children — infants and toddlers — being molested for the cameras in more violent and egregious ways. Most are abused and photographed by a parent, relative or someone else in a position of trust (according to information gathered by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children).

As the result of this operation nine (9) individuals were arrested and charged with Possession and Transfer of Child Pornography to include eight (8) adults and one (1) juvenile. The adults are identified as follows:

Lee Pollock, age 45, of 248 Knotty Oak Road, Coventry, Rhode Island Nicholas Pislowski, age 23, of 72 Harding Avenue, Johnston, Rhode Island Michael Castaldi, age 51, of 41 Sundance Street, Warwick, Rhode Island Mark Belanger, age 42, of 35 Goff Avenue (Apt. 411), Pawtucket, Rhode Island Tiberi Simas, age 37, of 233 Ohio Avenue, Providence, Rhode Island Joseph Cifelli, age 71, of 134 Longview Drive, Warwick, Rhode Island Nathan Dayon, age 21, of 13 Fairview Avenue, Westerly, Rhode Island Luther Gorahkov, age 25, of 23 Ray Street, Providence, Rhode Island

One (1) individual was charged with Possession of Child Pornography identified as Dylan Byrne, age 18, of Hutchinson Hall (University of Rhode Island Campus), South Kingstown.

One individual, identified as Steven Dasho, age 19, of Hutchinson Hall (University of Rhode Island campus) was also arrested after being found to be in possession of psilocybin (hallucinogenic mushrooms) and was charged with Possession of a Schedule I Controlled Substance.

These individuals will be arraigned in the Third, Fourth and Sixth Division District Courts in Rhode Island.

Warrants were executed in the following cities and towns with the assistance of their respective Police Departments; Providence South Kingstown Johnston Coventry Pawtucket Warwick Cranston Westerly

Related links

  • Department or agency: Rhode Island State Police
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  • Release date: 04-12-2012

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