by Irvin Muchnick and Tim Joyce
Broward County Sheriffs Detective Jennifer Montgomery is the police officer who fielded the 2008 tip from AOL regarding the Internet child pornography circulated by Roberto Caragol, a colleague of Alex Pussieldi on the swim coaching staff at Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale. Concussion Inc. just completed an enlightening dialogue with her.
For future posts, there is much to interpret and comment on and follow up on with others. But first, lets just let Detective Montgomery have the floor.
At the request of the sheriffs public information officer, Kyla Concepcion, we posed our questions in writing. Here they are:
1. What did you do in terms of probing Caragols sex crimes against children in his work life and associations?
1a. Do you know why the criminal counts against Caragol only involved Internet pornography and not, additionally, sexual molestation or statutory rape?
2. If you indeed investigated Caragols work and associations, did you turn up information on Alex Pussieldi? This is a swim coach, now back in his native Brazil , about whom we have been writing extensively. Caragol and Pussieldi were featured as Pine Crest Schools contacts for a service by which they housed visiting swimmers. Pussieldi was suspended for three months by USA Swimming for physically assaulting a swimmer in Fort Lauderdale in 2004 though both swimming and the city police seem to have let him off the hook for the underlying cause of the incident: his secret bathroom videotaping of an underage swimmer from Mexico who was living with Pussieldi as his legal ward. Further, a reliable federal source told me the FBI investigated Pussieldi.
First, I am a detective for BSOs Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force. My expertise and area of responsibility is limited to child exploitation incidents through the use of technology. When hands-on molestation incidents are uncovered, we will typically call in a detective from BSOs Sex Crimes unit to work with us, mainly to handle the sexual abuse investigation as they are trained to do. And likewise, when their investigations reveal child pornography, they come to us for assistance. So the answers to your questions are below:
1: As you know, the case began as a child pornography investigation that started when AOL intercepted an email that was forwarded by Caragol and contained images consistent with child pornography. As in most of our child pornography investigations, during interviews pertaining to child pornography, we always ask questions pertaining to hands-on contact with children and will have children who are easily accessible to the suspect interviewed as well. In this particular case, he first denied any inappropriate contact with children and the investigation, at that time, focused on the child pornography allegations. Once a forensic exam revealed child pornography on Caragols computer, we further probed him by way of polygraph about molestation occurrences. During that polygraph exam, he admitted to sexual contact with 7 underage people that he knew through his swim coaching. The incidents occurred many years prior, according to his admissions, and in some instances he was unable to provide accurate names for the victims. I worked with a BSO Sex Crimes detective (since my area of expertise is child pornography) to identify and locate as many of the victims as we could.
1a: This was a very high profile case and I asked the FBI for assistance because I thought that this case would be better prosecuted in the Federal System. Against my wishes, the FBI and US Atty in our district at the time were very eager to put out a press release about Caragols arrest. I have to throw in that I was very vocal about my opposition to the press release at this point in the investigation because I knew that the remainder of the investigation would be in jeopardy if the media got a hold of the information. However, the final decision was made to release the information.
When we did track down the victims who we were able to identify, not ONE of them wanted to cooperate or give a statement. This could be attributed to a couple factors. The boys (who were pre-teens at the time of the incidents) were now college-age young men with girlfriends and had seen the media coverage. They were afraid to be identified and did not want to revisit that time of their lives again. Caragol, surprisingly, was still a well-liked guy. People LOVED this guy. WE liked this guy. He was a likeable guy and it was easy to see how he could seduce boys into doing things they knew were wrong. Some of the victims didnt want to be part of the demise of Caragols career. This is the reason why he was not charged with any sex crimes. We had no evidence, except for his admissions, and no cooperating victims.
It would have been impossible to set up forensic interviews with every child that Caragol ever coached. Instead, we asked Pine Crest to reach out to the parents and encourage parents to try and determine if their child may have been victimized and, if so, to report it to police immediately. The press releases also asked anyone with information or anyone who maybe a victim to contact law enforcement. No one came forward. His molestation admissions, while not pursued criminally, were considered when he was sentenced for the child pornography. He was sentenced on the high end of the guidelines because of those admissions so they didnt go unrecognized.
2: The investigation did not expand into additional suspects.