Texarkana man caught in nationwide child porn sting

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A Texarkana man caught in a nationwide FBI investigation pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to possessing child pornography.

Gary Thomas Bruce, 52, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Caroline Craven for a plea hearing with Texarkana attorney Jeff Harrelson in the Texarkana Division of the Eastern District of Texas. Bruce is among hundreds of defendants across the U.S. indicted in an FBI investigation called “Operation Pacifier.”

FBI investigators continued to operate a site titled “Playpen” on the “dark web” after its U.S. physical location was discovered in 2014, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in another federal district. Once under the FBI’s control, agents were able to identify a number of specific internet protocol addresses being used by individuals downloading and sharing child pornography through the site using software they believed kept their digital identities anonymous.

Bruce’s apartment on Sowell Lane in Texarkana, Texas, was searched by investigators Sept. 11, 2015. In May 2016 a federal grand jury indicted him and Bruce has been behind bars since his arrest in June.

According to documents filed in Bruce’s case Wednesday, computer equipment seized from his home contained more than 600 images of sexual child abuse including images of prepubescent children being violently assaulted. As part of his plea agreement, Bruce must forfeit his computer equipment to the government, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Ross said.

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Bruce will remain in jail until his case is scheduled for formal sentencing. He faces up to 20 years in federal prison, a fine up to $250,000, or both. Upon release from prison Bruce must register as a sex offender.

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