Child Porn Probe Leads To FBI Headquarters

10/01/2011 09:21

JANUARY 5--The government’s pursuit of suspects trafficking in child pornography recently led federal agents to a familiar address--the FBI’s Washington, D.C. headquarters, where a bureau official is the subject of an ongoing criminal probe, The Smoking Gun has learned.

The investigation by the Department of Justice’s inspector general is focusing on FBI employee Joseph Bonsuk’s receipt of nearly 80 illicit images that were e-mailed to him by an Illinois sex offender whose rap sheet includes felony convictions for bank robbery and solicitation of a minor.

In a telephone interview last night, Bonsuk, 51, acknowledged that he is under investigation, but said that the matter was a “misunderstanding” and a “mix-up.” Bonsuk, who claimed he is cooperating with probers, said that FBI officials had told him yesterday not to discuss the ongoing investigation. While adding that he was “totally innocent,” Bonsuk, pictured at right, said that he has not been told that he will avoid criminal charges.

That direction was apparently triggered by TSG inquiries to the agency’s press office about Bonsuk. Kathy Wright, an FBI spokesperson, refused to disclose Bonsuk’s job title, his responsibilities, or how long he has worked for the bureau. Claiming that FBI policy barred disclosure of such details about a public employee, Wright also declined to say whether Bonsuk’s job status has changed in light of the child porn investigation.

Bonsuk told TSG that he works as an FBI management and program analyst.

Court records reveal that Bonsuk’s name surfaced in the wake of an FBI probe of Ronald Norweathers, an Illinois felon who was arrested in December 2009 for allegedly sharing hundreds of illicit images and videos via the GigaTribe peer-to-peer network. A criminal complaint notes that Norweathers, 29, unknowingly allowed access to his child porn stash to three different undercover operatives.

Following his arrest, Norweathers, pictured at left, “voluntarily authorized the FBI to take over control of and use his ‘online presence.’” This tactic allows agents to secretly assume control of a suspect’s screen names, nicknames, and e-mail addresses, which can provide immediate access to networks of child porn traders.

While reviewing a Yahoo account used by Norweathers, FBI agents discovered “several exchanges” with an AOL e-mail account. One March 2009 correspondence from Norweathers to the AOL account included a file with 78 child porn images. After the file was sent, Norweathers received an e-mail from the AOL account saying, “I don’t want kiddie porn scary.” Norweathers responded, “well duh pick through for the teen stuff I sent how it came to me.”

A subsequent subpoena revealed that Bonsuk was the AOL account’s subscriber. His contact information included telephone numbers at his Baltimore home and “day telephone number (202) 324-8494, which is a number at FBI Headquarters,” according to an affidavit sworn by a Department of Justice investigator.

After realizing that Bonsuk worked for the FBI, investigators secretly copied the hard drive of Bonsuk’s office computer. While a forensic examination did not turn up any illicit images, a variety of evidence retrieved from the machine linked him to the AOL address “utilized by Bonsuk on March 13, 2009 to receive child pornography.”

At Bonsuk’s request, a TSG reporter forwarded him a search warrant that recently allowed agents to seize a “CD containing e-mail content” from his AOL account. He did not reply to messages left for him this morning seeking comment on the warrant’s contents.

Norweathers, who spent about four years in federal prison for his bank robbery and solicitation convictions, is currently being held without bail at the federal lockup in Chicago. He was named in a four-count July 2010 indictment charging him with possession and distribution of child pornography.

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