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8 adults, 3 teens charged by Howard police with possession of child pornography over past nine months

Howard County police have charged eight adults and three teenagers with possession of child pornography over the past nine months, the department announced Friday.

Police said the separate charges, some of which date back to July, came to fruition after tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Maryland Internet Crimes Against Children task force.

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In total, the tips led to more than a dozen investigations, 23 search warrants and the seizure of more than 160 devices, police said. Some of the people charged had thousands of pornographic images and videos, according to a police news release.

“These cases are complex and require meticulous police work to identify suspects and collect evidence,” Howard County Police Chief Lisa Myers said in the release. “I want to recognize our excellent team of detectives who have worked tirelessly to execute search warrants and have had to review thousands of disturbing images and videos to bring charges against these suspects.”

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Police have charged the following 11 people since July:

  • Tucker Nathaniel Testoff, 20, of Ellicott City, pleaded guilty to two counts of possession of child pornography and was sentenced to five years of probation on March 29.
  • Taylor Richard Allen, 28, of Clarksville, was indicted on 10 counts of possession of child pornography. A pretrial motions hearing in Howard County Circuit Court is scheduled for June 23.
  • Nicholas David Gehringer, 30, of Glenwood, was indicted on nine counts of possession of child pornography. A pretrial motions hearing is scheduled for June 3.
  • Saige Noel Penrod, 19, of Elkridge, was indicted on five counts of possession of child pornography. Court scheduling is set for April 16.
  • Jawad Hyder Wagan, 33, of Columbia, was indicted on four counts of possession of child pornography. A pretrial motions hearing is scheduled for April 26.
  • Hayk Manukyan, 21, of Laurel, was indicted on three felony counts of distributing child pornography and four counts of possession of child pornography. A plea hearing is scheduled for April 13.
  • Parker Greer Michael Matta, 19, of Ellicott City, was indicted on one count of possession of child pornography. A pretrial motion hearing is scheduled for June 18.
  • Anthony Joseph Ross, 31, of Columbia, is charged with five counts of possession of child pornography. Court scheduling is set for April 22.
  • A 14-year-old from Laurel is charged with one count of possession of child pornography.
  • A 16-year-old from Laurel is charged with one count of possession of child pornography.
  • A 17-year-old from Glenelg is charged with one count of possession of child pornography.

In Maryland, possession of child pornography is a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of five years in prison for the first offense. For second and future offenses, the maximum sentence is 10 years.

“The sexual abuse of children that’s often portrayed in child pornography is one of the most unconscionable violations of trust imaginable,” Howard County State’s Attorney Rich Gibson said in the release. “Prosecuting the perpetrators of these horrendous crimes is one of our highest priorities, and we will work in tandem with our law enforcement partners to bring these criminals to justice.”

Attorneys for Allen, Gehringer, Matta and Ross couldn’t be reached for comment. Samuel Nalli, who is representing Wagan and Manukyan, declined to comment.

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Daniel Kobrin, the public defender representing Penrod, said he disagrees with the police department sending out the news release.

“It’s difficult when the police department puts out a news release like that, because it makes it seem like all these people are working together, which is not the case,” Kobrin said. “They’re putting people’s names out there with a crime that’s serious and that people are disgusted by, but it hasn’t been proven in the court of law.”

The charges coincide with a large increase in online child sex exploitation tips at both the state and county level.

According to the department’s release, Maryland State Police saw a 67% increase in tips in 2020 compared with 2019. In Howard County, the increase was even more stark, with 727 tips reported in 2020 compared to 196 in 2019 — a 270% increase.

Tips can be sent to the NCMEC at missingkids.org/gethelpnow/cybertipline. Online safety resources for children can be found at missingkids.org/netsmartz/resources and netsmartzkids.org.

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