Investigators remove items from a house in Brattleboro. (Kayla Rice/Reformer file photo)
Investigators remove items from a house in Brattleboro. (Kayla Rice/Reformer file photo)

BRATTLEBORO -- A Brattleboro man who was arrested along with his father and charged with possession of child pornography was sentenced May 19 to 12 months and one day in the federal prison in Fort Devens, Mass.

According to court documents, Ralph Schnyer, 46, is scheduled to begin his sentence on July 8.

On Aug. 13, 2013, the Schnyer's home on Birge Street was raided by special agents with Homeland Security Investigations and members of the Brattleboro Police Department.

According to court documents, David "Gunner" Schnyer, 77, and his son were arrested following an investigation that began in October 2012, when a Homeland Security Investigations agent using the Ares peer-to-peer file sharing network identified a computer suspected of being used to download at least 20 files containing child pornography.

Searching publicly available records, the agent determined the IP address of the computer under suspicion was registered to a resident of 213 Birge St. A second IP address at the same residence was identified as being used to download and share child pornography.

On May 13, David Schnyer was sentenced to five years in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release. He was found to be in possession of more than 41,000 images and videos containing child pornography.

Following the search of their home, Ralph Schnyer told investigators that he once observed his father viewing child pornography on his own computer. After seeing the child pornography on his father's computer he purchased a thumb drive and, without his father's knowledge, accessed his computer and copied child pornography to the thumb drive.


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"He said that he is addicted to viewing child pornography (and) that he has a collection of approximately 10,000 files (images and videos) on his desktop computer," wrote a special agent in an affidavit filed with the court. "When asked if he knew that possessing nude images of children under the age 18 is illegal, he stated, ‘Yes, I know, I'm screwed.'"

The investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1866-347-2423 or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-843-5678.

HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.

Bob Audette can be reached at raudette@reformer.com, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.