|Federal agents say Upton man had child pornographic images in his phone||July 15, 2021|
|Norman Miller 508-626-3823||Metrowest Daily News|
UPTON - Authorities say a local man hid numerous child pornography images inside a phone application made to look like a calculator.
Federal agents arrested Matthew Stefanelli, 31, of 13 Church St., on Wednesday after a 10-month investigation, authorities said.
According to an affidavit filed by a Department of Homeland Security agent in U.S. District Court in Worcester, the investigation into Stefanelli began in October when Google submitted a tip of an image believed to be child pornography. It also provided Stefanelli's name, phone number and email address.
The image, according to the affidavit, featured a nude girl around 6 to 7 years old and is a known image to be shared online.
In January, agents went to Stefanelli's home and seized several electronic devices. He admitted the email they provided was his, but told them he was "locked out" of the email for several months and denied downloading any child pornography, according to the affidavit.
One of the devices seized was Stefanelli's phone. A forensic investigation led investigators to discover an app that is known to hide images and video files, according to the affidavit.
"A forensic review of the devices revealed images of child pornography saved in an encrypted application designed to appear as a calculator," authorities said.
Investigators found more than 33 images they say are child pornography - girls as young as 4 who are nude, according to the affidavit. They also found 117 images of an adult woman and two children. The affidavit was partially redacted to block any details of what those images depicted.
Authorities charged Stefanelli with one count of possession of child pornography. If convicted, he could face a minimum of five years in prison with a maximum of 20 years, as well as lifetime supervised release and a fine of $250,000.
During Stefanelli's appearance later Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Worcester, Judge David Hennessy ordered him held without bail pending a detention hearing on Monday.
Norman Miller can be reached at 508-626-3823 or email@example.com. For up-to-date public safety news, follow Norman Miller on Twitter @Norman_MillerMW or on Facebook at facebook.com/NormanMillerCrime.
|Twist in child porn case||July 15, 2021|
|Dave Rogers||Newbury Port News|
STAFF WRITER Jun 6, 2014 Updated Aug 15, 2014
NEWBURYPORT - The state's case against a Lowell man accused of storing child pornography on his cellphone took a major hit earlier this week when a Newburyport District Court judge threw out a crucial piece of evidence.
Matthew W. Stefanelli, 24, 56 Vernon St., Lowell, was charged with one count of possession of child pornography following his October 2013 arrest for drunken driving on Interstate 495 near Broad Street.
During his arrest, Merrimac officer Steven A. Ringuette searched his cellphone looking for evidence of where he may have been drinking. Instead, he found images of child pornography, prompting the sole charge.
Believing the search was unconstitutional, Stefanelli's attorney Thomas Dreschler filed a motion to suppress the cellphone as evidence. Despite arguments from assistant district attorney Michelle Belmonte and testimony from Ringuette, Judge Allen Swan granted Dreschler's motion.
According to Belmonte, the case against Stefanelli was continued until June 27 for a status hearing.
Dreschler, who defended then-Waltham police Chief Thomas LaCroix on domestic assault and battery charges in 2013, successfully argued that Ringuette flipped through his client's cellphone photo gallery without first obtaining a search warrant.
In Ringuette's report, during the booking process at the Merrimac police station, the officer wrote that he searched Stefanelli's phone believing he could find evidence related to his drunken-driving arrest.
"I immediately observed images of what I believed to be of juveniles under the age of 16 posed in graphic sexual positions. I believed these images to be child pornography," Ringuette wrote.
Following the discovery, Ringuette informed a state police detective. He then asked Stefanelli if he could search his phone, to which the defendant agreed. Ringuette then had Stefanelli sign a consent form and kept his phone after the defendant left the station, according to his report.
A further search of the phone resulted in the discovery of additional disturbing images, including naked young girls engaging in sexual acts with older men and women. It was only after that discovery that Ringuette applied for a search warrant with Newburyport District Court, according to his report.
In Dreschler's motion to suppress the cellphone, he argued that Ringuette violated his client's Fourth Amendment rights related to unreasonable search and seizure when he looked through Stefanelli's cellphone before obtaining a search warrant. Dreschler also successfully argued that without the prior search of his client's cellphone, there wasn't probable cause for the issuance of a search warrant.
Ringuette is current on paid administrative leave pending the completion of an internal investigation by Merrimac police. The North Andover resident was arrested on Feb. 2 and charged with assault and battery following an incident in downtown Boston.
Merrimac police Chief Eric Shears would not confirm Ringuette was placed on paid leave due to his arrest in Boston, saying only it was related to an off-duty incident.
In January, Stefanelli's drunken-driving charge was continued without finding for a year. He was placed on one-year supervised probation and ordered to a complete an alcohol safety awareness program.
His driver's license was suspended for 45 days and he was ordered to pay $600 in court costs and fines.
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