Houston News & Search
Caught in a 2015 FBI sting on dark web that nabbed more than 100 internet users
Published 3:00 pm, Thursday, April 6, 2017
Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta, STF
A former DEA agent based in McAllen was sentenced in Houston Thursday to seven years in federal prison for downloading child pornography.
James Patrick Burke, 39, was caught as a result of Operation Pacifier, an international sting by FBI agents that swept up visitors to a dark website that peddled illegal images and videos.
U.S. District Judge Alfred H. Bennett told Burke he was taking into consideration the former special agent’s criminal behavior as well as his law enforcement and military service, according to a news release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The judge said he was repulsed by the crime and unmoved by the lengthy statement Burke made in court, which did not demonstrate Burke was ready to take the blame for his conduct.
He ordered Burke to pay $4,000 in restitution to a known victim and serve 15 years of supervised release after his prison term. He will be required to register as a sex offender.
Burke, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent, was taken into custody after sentencing. His attorney, Mark Diaz, could not be reached for comment.
Burke pleaded guilty June 2. He was one of more than 135 people indicted on allegations they accessed content from a website known as Playpen in early 2015.
FBI agents executed a search warrant after they traced downloads to his Internet ID from the Playpen site that trafficked in pornographic images of children. The FBI had seized the website’s server and gotten a search warrant to keep it running for a month in 2015 while agents ran hacking software tracing the IP addresses of site visitors.
During a search of his McAllen residence, investigators seized a laptop and a desktop computer. Burke told agents he used software to wipe the devices clean, but agents also found remnants of the movie titles that indicated they might have been of child pornography.
An examination of Playpen’s server showed Burke had accessed 77 threads containing 345 contact sheets with about eight images of child pornography per sheet, including prepubescent children and toddlers in acts of bondage and violence. Some were known victims as identified through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, according to court documents.
Houston News & Search