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Banker with youth ties faces child porn counts

The U.S. Attorney's Office says Chad A. Salvatore is a bank vice president, a foster parent and an active volunteer with organizations that bring foreign exchange students into Western New York.

Prosecutors also accuse him of possessing and distributing child pornography.

Salvatore, 37, of Clinton Street, Alden, was arrested over the weekend by Department of Homeland Security agents on charges that he used the Internet to trade violent child porn videos with others. He appeared at a federal court bail hearing Tuesday.

Federal prosecutor Aaron J. Mango alleged that Salvatore is a danger to the community -- especially youngsters -- and asked Magistrate Judge Jeremiah J. McCarthy to order him to be held in jail until his case comes up for trial. The judge reserved decision and said he will hear more Thursday from Mango and Salvatore's attorney, Scott F. Riordan.

Mango told the judge that federal agents who arrested Salvatore early Saturday found a 13-year-old foster child living in the Alden home with Salvatore and his male partner. The foster child is now in the custody of Erie County Child Protective Services officials.

There is no allegation that Salvatore molested the foster child, but Mango said Salvatore has a record -- as a juvenile -- of molesting children. He said Salvatore was given youthful-offender status and put on probation for five years when he was 17. The prosecutor said Salvatore molested three children, one of whom was younger than 11.

"The government finds it almost shocking" that foster care authorities either were never made aware of Salvatore's record of molestation as a youthful offender, or knew about it and still allowed him to become a foster parent, Mango said during the bail hearing. "This defendant has sexually abused children," the prosecutor said.

Mango said prosecutors and federal agents also were disturbed to learn over the weekend that Salvatore is a volunteer with foreign exchange student programs and has hosted a number of teenagers from other countries in his home.

Riordan responded that since the incident that occurred when he was a teenager, Salvatore has never again been accused of molesting any child.

"He and his partner have had a number of foster children and foreign exchange students stay in their home over the past few years, and not one has ever accused [Salvatore] of molesting or harming them in any way," Riordan said. "He did something that was wrong when he was a minor, but since then, [Salvatore] has done nothing but help the community."

Riordan said Salvatore and his partner, as volunteers, also run a rescue agency for pugs and other small animals that have been abandoned or mistreated.

Salvatore has pleaded not guilty to the child porn charges. He has been in jail since his weekend arrest and will remain there until a detention ruling is issued at federal court.

His arrest was described in court papers by Special Agent Christopher Bennett of the Immigration & Customs Enforcement Bureau of Homeland Security.

Bennett said he was conducting an online investigation last month when he found graphic child pornographic images on a peer-to-peer file-sharing network. The agent said he found that a user in Alden who identified himself as "pervforlil12" was sharing child porn videos from his computer files.

Some of the videos were extremely graphic, including one of an infant being molested and one that showed a boy, about 11, being gang-raped by several adult males, Bennett said.

Friday, a federal search warrant was executed at Salvatore's Alden home. Bennett said that Salvatore was not at home but that another male adult and the 13-year-old boy who lives in the home were present. He said further investigation showed that only Salvatore was at the home Dec. 15, when some of the alleged child porn was viewed on a computer in the home.

Early Saturday, the State Police found Salvatore several miles from the residence and turned him over to Bennett. Bennett said Salvatore admitted to him and a trooper that he used his computer to download child porn.

Mango said federal agents have learned that Salvatore and his partner have taken steps to adopt the 13-year-old boy who has been living with them.

"Mr. Salvatore is accused of having child pornography on his computer," Riordan said. "He is not accused of making child pornography or molesting children."

Agents have evidence that Salvatore paid a fee to download child porn images to his computer, according to Mango, who said federal agents are examining two computers seized from the Alden home.

e-mail: dherbeck@buffnews.com

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