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UPDATED: NM Reporter Arrested in Vast Child Porn Network

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ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — A New Mexico man has been charged in a massive child porn investigation that started in Massachusetts and has led to 46 arrests in seven countries.

Richard Dates, 67, of Grants, N.M., a reporter and copy editor for the Cibola Beacon, was charged Thursday with possessing child pornography.

In documents filed in federal court Friday, authorities said searches of computers owned by a Massachusetts man and a Kansas man arrested earlier this year showed Dates had chatted online with the men and received photos of children engaged in sexual acts.

Authorities said Dates told federal agents that he has traded child pornography online with people in several countries, including Turkey. He also allegedly stated that he had used a photo editing program on several photos of butchered body parts and sent those photos over his Skype account to various users.

“Dates stated that he has discussed fantasized stories with other Skype users regarding a world where young people would be raped, butchered, cooked and served to patrons at a restaurant,” Alfred Allen, a special agent of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, wrote in an affidavit filed in court.

Dates made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque on Friday. He told a judge he is on Social Security and cannot afford to pay for an attorney and asked for one to be appointed for him. He is scheduled to appear in court Monday for a preliminary hearing and a bail hearing.

Dates is the 46th person arrested in the two-year investigation. The case began in Massachusetts with the arrest of Robert Diduca, a Sheraton hotel manager from Milford, Mass., who sent a photo of a Dutch boy to an undercover federal agent in Boston. Diduca thought he was sending the photo to a man with a sexual interest in babies and toddlers.

The photo led authorities to Amsterdam, where they arrested Robert Mikelsons, a day care worker who confessed to molesting 87 young children, including the 18-month-old boy in the photo. Photos and online chats found on computers owned by Diduca and Mikelsons led to more than three dozen suspects in seven countries. So far, authorities have identified more than 140 child victims.

Authorities said Dates was chatting online with two other men charged in the investigation: Michael Arnett, of Roeland Park, Kan., and Geoffrey Portway, of Worcester, Mass. Investigators have said they found long, graphic online chats on Arnett’s computer about his alleged desire to abduct, kill and eat children.

“The extremely disturbing tentacles of this investigation extend overseas, across the United States, and now to New Mexico,” said Dennis Ulrich, special agent in charge of HSI El Paso who oversees HSI throughout New Mexico.

“This investigation, and all our Operation Predator investigations, are solely designed to protect our children, and bring to justice their victimizers.”

Kevin Abar, assistant special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New Mexico, said Dates was arrested Thursday, and agents found “hundreds” of images of children being abused or in sexual acts. Abar said he did not know if any of the children in the photos were from New Mexico or Massachusetts, but the investigation is ongoing.

Authorities said Dates told agents that in addition to his apartment in Grants, he owned a mobile home in El Morro, N.M. Agents who searched the property found around 40 binders and hardcover books containing images of children, according to Allen’s affidavit. Agents also found a binder that described how to butcher and strangle children with household items, according to the affidavit.

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