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Sting nabs local man on child porn charges

MANATEE — A sting by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office led to the arrest of a Bradenton man on charges of possessing child pornography, according to a sheriff’s office report.

Detectives arrested Edward Tobey, 69, on two counts of possessing child pornography Wednesday, after investigators say he received two DVDs by mail known to have child porn on them, the sheriff’s report said.

A federal postal inspections agent began investigating Tobey after Tobey responded to an Internet advertisement placed by an undercover post office agent offering child pornography for sale, according to the sheriff’s report.

Tobey wrote in an e-mail to the undercover agent: “(S)imply, I’m interested in amateur movies of underage women,” the sheriff’s report states.

The post office agent then contacted Manatee sheriff’s deputies, saying Tobey had sent $40 by mail for child porn DVDs, and requested the movies be mailed to his motor home in a mobile home park in the 12500 block of Cortez Road.

On Wednesday, the postal agent and a sheriff’s detective who had Tobey’s mobile home under surveillance watched as Tobey signed for and took control of a package that had DVDs with child porn on them from another undercover postal agent.

Tobey admitted to ordering the DVDs and knowing they had child pornography on them. He also admitted to the e-mail correspondence with the postal inspector, the sheriff’s report said.

Sheriff’s Detective Todd Sellitto said DVDs with real child porn on them were used in order make an immediate arrest under state anti-child porn laws. Federal charges are also possible as Tobey asked for the child porn to be mailed across state lines, Sellitto said.

Sellitto said DVDs with child porn on them were immediately recovered after Tobey signed for the package and re-entered his home. Investigators took Tobey into custody and used a search warrant to retrieve the DVDs from his home.

Tobey has since been released from the Manatee County jail on $2,000 bond.

He is the second person in Manatee County to be arrested on child porn possession charges in a little more than a week. On March 25, a worker at a Manatee computer store reported finding child porn while on a customer’s computer.

Deputies later arrested Robert Harrow, 61, on 70 counts of child porn saying investigation revealed the images to be of children “posing or engaging in sexual acts,” the sheriff’s report said.

Sheriff’s spokesman Dave Bristow said tracking child porn is extremely difficult because the victims often don’t know they have been victimized or rarely report it. So undercover activities and use of technology have been tools for law enforcement to make arrests, he said.

“We are trying to do anything we can to stop this stuff,” said Bristow. “The public is really crucial here, too. If the public has any inclination this is going on, they need to tell us.”

Whether the cases stand up in court is another matter, according to Bradenton defense attorney Mark Lipinski. “In this mail case, I would be concerned about entrapment,” Lipinski said. “The Supreme Court has ruled that putting something out there to get somebody to respond is the equivalent of putting the idea in someone’s head, which is entrapment.”

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