MANATEE -- A Palmetto man has been charged with multiple counts of possession of child pornography and molesting a child, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.
Paul Ventre, 42, was arrested at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday and charged with lewd and lascivious molestation and 20 counts of possession of child pornography, according to an arrest report.
Ventre appeared Thursday afternoon before Manatee County Judge Doug Henderson for a first-appearance hearing. Ventre is being held without bond at the Manatee County jail.
Another hearing is set for Friday afternoon.
The investigation began May 10 when investigators received a computer memory card with images that appeared to be of a 14-year-old girl, the sheriff's office said.
A Bradenton man who frequently purchases the contents of storage units auctioned for failure to pay, came across the images accidently as he was deleting the contents from a memory card he had obtained as part of an auctioned unit before reusing it.
Through forensic analysis of the images, and with the use of law enforcement mug shot databases and Facebook, investigators were able to identify the girl, whom Ventre knew, and the man in the pictures.
Investigators were able to locate the child in North Carolina and contacted the Henderson County Sheriff's Office where she resides. Detectives there were familiar with the family and had expressed concerns about the girl.
The girl was interviewed by Henderson County Sheriff's Office investigators Wednesday confirming Ventre had taken the photos and touched her.
Detectives met Wednesday with the Bradenton man who discovered the images. He confirmed a cell phone had been in the storage unit previously rented by Ventre.
Detectives went to Ventre's home in the 500 block of 12th Avenue West in Palmetto. When confronted with the allegations, Ventre reportedly admitted to having owned the memory card, phone and rented the storage unit in addition to having taken the photos and touched the girl.
Ventre was taken to the Manatee County jail where he remains in custody.
Anyone with any information should call the Manatee County Sheriff's Office at 941-747-3011, ext. 1970, or Crime Stoppers at 866-634-TIPS.
Jessica De Leon, law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter@JDeLeon1012.