11/18/08 — Former airman charged in child porn case

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Former airman charged in child porn case

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on November 18, 2008 1:46 PM

Aldo Cesar Ruiz

A former 4th Fighter Wing airman pleaded guilty to taking nude pictures of a 9-year-old girl and will serve 25 years in federal prison, authorities said.

Authorities first announced charges against Aldo Cesar Ruiz, then 29, in December 2007, but were not specific about what Ruiz actually had done.

Ruiz was an airman stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force base when he was charged.

Now, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Exum says, the 30-year-old former airman has admitted in court to taking the pictures, and possessing a collection of child pornography on his computer.

Ruiz initially faced 10 counts of second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor and was jailed under a $750,000 bond, Sheriff's Department Capt. Tom Effler said.

But in federal court in the U.S. Department of Justice's Eastern District, Ruiz pleaded to a count of child pornography manufacture, according to the release.

The assistant district attorney said he did not want to divulge how Ruiz came to the authorities' attention.

"It was not a sting, but I don't think I'm at liberty to say how the tip came about," Exum said. "But suffice it to say that it was an online tip that we received."

Exum said he could not remember if authorities needed a warrant to seize Ruiz's computer or if the now-convicted former airman gave consent to seizure of his computer.

The assistant U.S. attorney also said he did not want to say how Ruiz came into contact with the 9-year-old.

The N.C. State Bureau of Investigation conducted a joint investigation with the Wayne County Sheriff's Office in the Ruiz case.

Although Exum said he could not provide many details outside of the Justice Department's news release, he does have a special interest in combating child pornography.

The assistant U.S. attorney is also coordinator of Project Safe Childhood, a national program launched on May 2, 2006, by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and President Bush.

Before Gonzales resigned under fire about a year later, he and Bush said the U.S. would make it a priority to punish offenders who target children.

"The Internet is an important resource that can enrich the lives of all Americans," Gonzales said. "But it also poses new and evolving dangers to our children, who are increasingly targeted online by sexual predators."

Exum said he agrees with Gonzales' May 2006 assessment, and says the problem continues to grow.

"I spend a large majority of my time working on these sorts of cases," Exum said. "Basically what is happening ... and this is my personal opinion ... the Internet is making the world a less-safe place for children."

Exum also noted that with the proper precautions and vigilant parents, the Internet can be a wonderful resource for children of all ages.

But there are other things that worry Exum about the Internet, particularly the concept of social networking between pedophiles.

"People who had a sexual interest in children, once upon a time, would have found it difficult to find supportive communities, to kind of feed that interest, I guess.

"And now with the Internet, a lot of these individuals will go online, and find people who have similar interests. And they will encourage each other. And, in my opinion, they make each other more aggressive."