STEUBENVILLE - A Mount Pleasant man arrested Thursday by federal authorities for possession of child pornography admitted to investigators he has been downloading "child erotica" since 2004.
Ryan Kasler, 31, of 24 Union St., Mount Pleasant, had an initial appearance Friday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Preston Deavers in Columbus, according to the U.S. attorney's office. Kasler is being held without bond and is in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service. A detention hearing for Kasler is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday before Deavers, the U.S. attorney's office reported.
According to a criminal complaint filed in federal court, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and an unnamed foreign law enforcement agency began an investigation into a movie production company that operated a website offering DVDs and streaming videos featuring naked boys.
The complaint signed by Daniel Johnson, U.S. postal inspector, said the production company, located outside the country, was the subject of more than 20 complaints to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's cyber tip line regarding the sale of child pornography.
U.S. postal inspectors accessed the production company's website and were able to review film previews, website movie summaries and customer ordering information.
On six occasions between February and April 2011, postal inspectors in Brentwood, Tenn., conducted controlled purchases of DVDs from the production company, Johnson said.
Johnson said law enforcement determined the production company had a shipping facility located in New York state. The shipment of the movies ordered by postal inspectors were shipped from New York via U.S. Postal Service priority mail to a post office box in Tennessee, he said.
Foreign law enforcement executed a search warrant on the production company on May 1, 2011, and seized hundreds of DVD movies, photo DVDs, computers and business records, including customer shipping labels and customer order histories, Johnson said.
Johnson said the production company and its two operating principals are being prosecuted in a location outside the country for child exploitation offenses, including the production and distribution of child pornography.
Postal inspectors conducted a review of records in the production company's customer database and located Kasler's name and address and determined Kasler on multiple occasions purchased child pornography from the company's website, Johnson said.
Between Jan. 28, 2006, and Feb. 15, 2011, Kasler placed orders and made purchases of films and photos on 13 occasions, Johnson said. These orders included 17 separate videos or photo collections from the production company's website totaling $553.14, Johnson said.
He said the investigation revealed Kasler is employed by the Martins Ferry Romanian Mission.
The First Christian Church of Martins Ferry operates the Romanian Mission, according to the church's website.
Kasler is listed at the director of the Romanian Mission, according to the church's website. Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla said Kasler split the year between living in Romania and the United States.
Kasler directs the mission's day-to-day affairs and is serving as onsite missionary in Arad and Ghioroc, Romania.The mission is working to construct a children's home in Romania, according to the website.
Kasler's home was searched on Thursday morning by federal agents.
Johnson said Kasler, who was present during the search, was shown the business records from the production company and admitted to the postal inspectors that he was the person who ordered the videos.
During the execution of the search warrant, postal inspectors seized a laptop computer and other computer equipment. Johnson said a federal agent forensically previewed the laptop computer and located approximately 150 nude images of young boys. Johnson said most of the images had been deleted from the computer, but were able to be recovered through forensic analysis.
He said the analysis indicated the files were last accessed on Dec. 2, 2012.
Johnson said during the investigation, several additional people were located and interviewed.
One unnamed male said he had known Kasler for about 15 years and had lived with him in Romania and the United States. That person said he had once observed a nude photograph of a boy who was about 8 years old, Johnson said.
The unnamed witness, who was later referred to as a victim in Johnson's affidavit for a criminal complaint, said Kasler had photographed him nude on numerous occasions between the ages of 8 and 12 years of age. The witness is now 22 years old, Johnson said.
Kasler provided a statement to investigators in which he admitted to taking numerous nude photos of the witness and had engaged in sexual contact with the victim twice in Romania when the witness was about 13 to 14 years old.