The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

January 30, 2014

Jury convicts man of child porn

By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer

MERCER — A federal jury on Friday found a Mercer man guilty of seven charges relating to the production and possession of child pornography.

Earl D. Warner, 55, will be sentenced June 6 on six counts of producing child porn and one count of possession.

The jury heard three days of testimony from 11 witnesses, including Warner.

Warner could be sentenced to 15 to 30 years in prison on the production charges and up to 10 years on the possession charge. His sentencing was set for June 6.

Warner was a peripheral character in the investigation of Armando Cruz, 45, formerly of Mercer.

In an affidavit for a search warrant of Cruz’s home, an agent of the FBI’s Pittsburgh office said his office was notified by the FBI’s San Diego office that Cruz was believed to be inviting girls under the age of 12 to his home and taking photographs of them in “various stages of dress and undress.”

The San Diego office sent to Pittsburgh agents several hundred photographs of three girls, with at least five photos showing two of the girls with their breasts being exposed by an adult male hand. One of the girls was sleeping.

Two men, Cruz and Brandon W. Schroth, also were in the photos.

The photographs were discovered in Denver, where the FBI had searched the home of Jeffrey A. Mueller.

Schroth and Mueller have been prosecuted in federal courts.

Mueller, a friend of Schroth’s, had computer files entitled “Armcruz/XVkids” and “Brandon,” and a file that was an apparent combination of Cruz’s name and a victim’s name.

The FBI contacted state police for help in identifying the girls, and sent photos to a trooper of the girls in which they were fully clothed. The trooper met with a Mercer school official, reviewed the 2010 school yearbook, and identified the girls. The girls were 9, 10 and 11 during the time the photos were taken, in December 2010.

During the investigation, Cruz said Warner had taken photographs of naked children, federal officials said, and agents turned up photographs and videos created in April, June and July 2011 that Warner admitted he had taken.

Cruz pleaded guilty to federal charges of producing child porn and was sentenced in December 2012 to 35 years in prison. He also was sentenced to 8è to 20 years, to be served after his federal sentence ends, on a Mercer County charge of attempted involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.

Cruz testified at Warner’s trial, which might afford him the opportunity to be resentenced in the federal case to a shorter prison term.

Warner also faces state police charges of aggravated indecent assault, corruption of minors and indecent assault. The case is on the February trial list.