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Cop Collects 1 million Kiddie Porn Images

Wisconsin- A former Illinois police officer and computer gatekeeper for a Kenosha Christian school was charged Tuesday with 26 counts of possession of child pornography.

Newton B. Tench, 63, of Pleasant Prairie, was charged based on images from a three-ring binder taken from a padlocked room in his basement, according to a criminal complaint filed in Kenosha County Circuit Court.

State officials and Pleasant Prairie police searched Tench’s home Sunday. They used a warrant based on a nearly 2½-year investigation into Tench’s Internet activities, including alleged downloading of child porn.

Federal agents began their investigation in October 2003 after they reviewed customer databases for a company called Regpay. According to the criminal complaint, the company owns and runs members-only Internet sites that feature child pornography.

Investigators found Tench’s name on a Regpay customer database for the now-defunct Web site www.darkfeeling.com. For an estimated fee of $57.90, viewers got a single-month membership “to a child pornography Web site that gives an offender an almost unlimited opportunity to save as many images as possible,” the complaint says.

Agents later traced Tench’s credit card number and payment to ISERVE, an American billing company that reportedly laundered money for Russian-based child porn Web sites operated through Regpay, according to federal agents quoted in the complaint.

Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Shelly Rusch could not discuss how many others might have been snared in the federal investigation. However, she said, “it’s a huge operation, and it involves more than one guy in Kenosha County. I can guarantee you that.”

As many as 40,000 Americans could be implicated in the Regpay investigation, according to a Wall Street Journal report. So far, 1,400 people worldwide have been arrested for downloading child porn from Regpay sites, including about 330 Americans.

Rusch said there was no evidence that Tench downloaded porn or did anything else illegal while working at Christian Life School.

School Administrator Paul Blount said he planned to send a letter to parents of the school’s estimated 815 students explaining the situation.

“Basically, we’re sorry it happened, and we feel bad,” Blount said. “We’ll be praying for the family of Newt and trying to make sure (parents) talk to their own kids.”

Blount said Tench was hired partly because he held a “position of respect” as a retired Waukegan, Ill., police officer. Tench worked for the department from 1972 to 1993.

Tench also passed a background investigation. He had no criminal history, so Tench was hired about two years ago to oversee the school’s computers. He no longer worked for the school as of Monday, Blount said.

“He was always very light-hearted, seemed like a very good man,” Blount said. “These secrets can be hidden, is what we know now.”

Blount said Tench helped the school develop computer pornography protection.

“He helped us implement that, monitored that,” Blount said. “If we thought there was something questionable that got through, we looked at it. If there was something, he would tighten the ropes.”

Tench has another court hearing next Tuesday.

In the meantime, the Wisconsin Crime Lab will continue inspecting the two truckloads of computer equipment taken from Tench’s home. Tench told an investigator that there could be as many as 1 million pornographic images. Tench also reportedly admitted collecting child porn since 1980. Images depict girls ages birth to 18, with an average age of 10, Tench told an investigator.

Rusch said new charges would be filed if additional evidence were found.

If convicted on all charges, Tench faces a maximum sentence of 91 years in prison, fines of $260,000 or both.

Tench has been ordered held at the Kenosha County Jail on a $350,000 cash bond.

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