The Examiner

Mt. Pleasant Police Chief Arrested on Child Pornography Charge

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Mount Pleasant Police Chief Brian Fanelli.
Mount Pleasant Police Chief Brian Fanelli.

Mount Pleasant Police Chief Brian Fanelli was arrested Thursday morning at his Mahopac home for allegedly downloading and possessing child pornography.

Fanelli, 54, was taken into custody by authorities from Homeland Security Investigations at about 11:30 a.m., accused of downloading more than 120 files containing images and videos of what is believed to be child pornography.

Late Thursday afternoon he appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lisa Margaret Smith in federal court in White Plains with a court appointed attorney at his side. Smith released Fanelli on a $50,000 personal recognizance bond. He will be electronically monitored and is prohibited from leaving his home except for work, court appearances, meetings with his attorney, doctors’ appointments and religious services.

In addition, he is being forced to relinquish all firearms and all access to electronic devices that can connect to the Internet, including computers and cell phones.

“Given the allegations, this case is particularly disturbing and sad,” U.S Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. “A senior law enforcement officer, sworn to uphold the law, stands accused of breaking the law. And it is the law designed to protect the youngest and most vulnerable of our population from vile exploitation.”

Fanelli left the courthouse more than an hour after his court appearance ended with his wife at his side walking briskly and without answering questions from reporters. He faces up to 10 years in jail and a $250,000 fine if convicted.

In the 10-page complaint released by the U.S. Attorney’s office, Fanelli allegedly used a peer-to-peer (P2P) filing sharing system starting as early as October until earlier this month and distributed the images and videos to other network users through his computer’s shared folder.

Department of Homeland Security agents using investigative software in an undercover capacity detected that the P2P network had downloaded from Fanelli’s computer the files believed to contain child pornography.

The complaint stated that Fanelli voluntarily told law enforcement authorities that for more than a year he has taught sexual abuse awareness classes to elementary and middle school students and began viewing child pornography as research for his classes. However, shortly afterwards he began viewing the images and videos for personal interest.

Fanelli, who has been a police officer for the Mount Pleasant Police Department since 1981, has been chief since Nov. 1. He took over from former Chief Louis Alagno who retired last fall and was hired for a $131,571 salary. He grew up in Mount Pleasant and is a Valhalla High School graduate.

Supervisor Joan Maybury said that Fannelli was immediately suspended from his duties on Thursday once the town was notified that the U.S. Homeland Security Special Investigations Unit had taken him into custody.

Reading from a prepared statement, Maybury addressed Fanelli’s situation in town hall on Thursday calling his arrest “very disturbing information” and promising that “the town will react very swiftly.”

“The town is fully cooperating with the U.S. attorney’s office and with U.S. Homeland Security in this investigation,” Maybury said.

Fanelli was a lieutenant for the last 16 years before his appointment as chief.

“Police officers – and especially police executives – are understandably held to a higher standard of conduct than ordinary citizens,” Homeland Special Agent-in Charge James T. Hayes, Jr. said. “The defendant’s alleged acquisition and viewing of sexually explicit images of children irrevocably breached the trust the public had in him.”

Bharara said the investigation is continuing.

Neal Rentz contributed to this article.




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