Update (1/6): Former Mount Pleasant Police Chief Brian Fanelli was sentenced on Wednesday to 18 months in federal prison and five years probation on one count of child pornography possession.
Fanelli, a Valhalla native, pleaded guilty to one count of possession of child pornography at the U.S. District Court in White Plains this past July. In exchange for the plea, prosecutors agreed not to serve him a sentence of longer than four years and three months in federal prison.
Fanelli, 56, was arrested in January 2014, two months after he was appointed to the position in November 2013. He was accused of downloading upwards of 120 pornographic files from a peer-to-peer file sharing network involving children as young as seven.
Former Mount Pleasant Police Chief Brian Fanelli pleaded guilty to one count of possessing child pornography, Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced Monday.
Fanelli, 56, of Mahopac, was appointed police chief in November 2013, and spent only three short months in office before his arrest in January 2014. Fanelli told Department of Homeland Security (DHS) investigators that he first began viewing child pornography as research for the classes on sexual abuse awareness he taught for children at St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton Church in Shrub Oak. From there, he developed a personal interest.
“By his guilty plea to downloading and possessing child pornography, Brian Fanelli, a former police chief who swore to protect and serve, admitted to a crime that victimizes and exploits some of the most vulnerable in our community,” Bharara said.
According to the Complaint and Indictment, from October 2013 through January 2014, Fanelli used a Peer-to-Peer file-sharing program (“the P2P Network”) to download more than 120 files containing images and videos believed to be child pornography. On three occasions, agents with the DHS and Homeland Security Investigations went undercover on the P2P Network to download Fanelli’s computer files containing images and videos believed to contain child pornography.
Fanelli faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. A sentencing is expected from Judge Kenneth M. Karas in November.
According to the New York Times, Fanelli’s arrest by the DHS led to the start the largest investigation of its kind in the New York area, with a total of 71 people being arrested last year including a rabbi, a New York City police officer, and a Boy Scout leader.
“The professional backgrounds of many of the defendants is troubling,” James T. Hayes Jr., a special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations told the Times. “We can no longer assume that the only people who would stoop to prey on children are unemployed drifters.”