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GUILTY: Jurors Convict Jersey Shore Porn Collector Who Threw Devices Into Creek To Avoid FBI

Ocean County Sheriff's Office drone.
Ocean County Sheriff's Office drone. Photo Credit: OCEAN COUNTY SHERIFF

A man who threw an iPad and iPhone containing child pornography into a Jersey Shore creek – only to have a drone help the FBI find them -- was convicted by federal jurors of several related charges.

Charles F. Browne, 52, of South River, became a target of investigators after officials at Dropbox Inc. tipped them off, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger said.

The FBI obtained the uploaded files, which included Browne’s resume along with images of prepubescent children being sexually abused, the U.S. attorney said.

Investigators approached Browne in April 2019 as he left his then-home in Toms River. He was given a Miranda warning and interviewed about an ongoing FBI investigation into child exploitation, Sellinger said.

“Browne initially denied having an iPad,” then claimed it was at his home about a mile away, the U.S. attorney said.

Investigators told him they'd retrieved an online account containing two images of prepubescent child sexual abuse, which he denied knowledge of, Sellinger said.

Browne later broke into his car, grabbed the iPad and iPhone, then headed to a local private beach club, according to an FBI complaint on file in U.S. District Court in Trenton.

What Browne didn’t know, investigators said, was that a neighbor was watching as he headed to the end of a dock and tossed the devices into the water.

Four days later, the Ocean County Sherriff’s Office deployed a drone at the end of the pier that located an “object of interest.”

The FBI then sent in a dive team that recovered both devices, Sellinger said.

Once they were repaired, various images and other data were retrieved – including a web history on the iPad that showed Browne seeking out child porn the day before his FBI interview, the U.S. attorney said.

Sellinger credited special agents with the FBI Newark Child Exploitation Human Trafficking Task Force with the investigation leading to Browne’s arrest and eventual conviction following a six-day trial in Trenton.

He also thanked the FBI New York Underwater Search & Evidence Response Team, the FBI Laboratory Division, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Officethe Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office, the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office, and the Toms River and South River police departments.

Securing the guilty verdicts to receiving child pornography, soliciting child pornography, possessing prepubescent child pornography, and concealing objects to impede the FBI’s investigation were Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jamie L. Hoxie and Jonathan Fayer of Sellinger’s Criminal Division in Newark.

U.S. District Judge Michael A. Shipp scheduled sentencing for Nov. 9.

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