Local officers help arrest cyber criminal

Thursday, January 7, 2010

 Over the last few months, local law enforcement officers Brian Martin and James Smith, who work with the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force, took part in an investigation that led to the arrest of a cyber criminal.

Martin, who works as the Barry County Sheriff's Department's cyber investigator, and Smith, who works as the Cassville Police Department's cyber investigator, helped the Task Force collect evidence against Donald Lee Zaeer, 58, of Jasper. On Dec. 21, 2009, Zaerr pleaded guilty in federal court to possession and distribution of child pornography.

According to a press release issued by the Cassville Police Department, a state search warrant was executed by the Task Force and federal agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at Zaerr's residence on Nov. 5, 2009. During the search, officers found a massive collection of child pornography.

Due to the size and contents of the collection, the case was referred to Matt J. Whitworth, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri.

A press release from Whitworth's office stated that Zaerr admitted to distributing at least four images of child pornography over the Internet on Oct. 7, 2009. The press release also states that Zaerr admitted to being in possession of child pornography when officers conducted a search at his property on Nov. 5, 2009.

After pleading guilty to the charges, Zaerr agreed to forfeit 12 computers, four thumb drives and 28 discs to the government. According to Whitworth, the materials were used by Zaerr when he posted child pornography on the Internet using file-sharing software in 2009.

Under federal statutes, Zaerr is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison without parole and up to 30 years in federal prison without parole. He could also pay a $500,000 fine.

A sentencing hearing will be scheduled for Zaerr after the completion of a presentence investigation by the U.S. Probation Office.

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