Assistant Commissioner of NYC Probation Department Indicted for Child Pornography Offenses

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PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – Acting United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that Robert Costello, 53, of Bethlehem, PA, was arrested and charged by Indictment with three counts of receipt of child pornography, one count of access with intent to view child pornography, and one count of possession of child pornography. The defendant made his initial appearance in federal court this afternoon and will remain in custody until a detention hearing on February 17, 2021.

As alleged in the Indictment, Costello received sexually explicit images of children over the Internet and possessed thousands of sexually explicit images and videos of children on several electronic devices that he kept and stored at his residence. During the time he is charged to have committed these crimes, Costello was employed as Assistant Commissioner of the New York City Department of Probation.

“The defendant allegedly possessed and viewed visual depictions of the sexual exploitation of children,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Williams. “He is charged with doing this while employed as an Assistant Commissioner with the City of New York, a position of public trust paid by taxpayer dollars. Our Office will continue to work with our law enforcement partners in all jurisdictions to investigate and prosecute child sexual exploitation offenses.”

The New York City Department of Probation said the accusations against Costello did not occur while on the job.

“These are disturbing and saddening allegations. Robert Costello, who did not interact with those under probation supervision as part of his job responsibilities, was terminated from his position last year when we learned of the initial allegations and charges in this matter. His alleged conduct is inconsistent with our values and does not represent our employees’ commitment and professionalism. The New York City Department of Probation continues to cooperate with the investigation,” the department said in a statement.

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“The defendant, an Assistant Commissioner of New York City’s probation department, violated his position of trust by allegedly possessing images of children being sexually exploited,” said Brian A. Michael, Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigations Philadelphia. “Safeguarding children from being victimized by predators is a top priority for Homeland Security Investigations. The indictment of the defendant should serve as notice that HSI and our law enforcement partners will use every resource at our disposal to investigate and arrest depraved individuals who commit sexual offenses against children.”

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.

If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of 90 years’ incarceration with a five year mandatory minimum sentence of imprisonment, five years up to a lifetime of supervised release, and up to a $1,250,000 fine.

The case was investigated by the Department of Homeland Security Investigations and Bethlehem Township Police Department, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Francis A. Weber and Kelly Harrell, and Department of Justice Trial Attorney Jessica Urban of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS).

An indictment, information, or criminal complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.