A respected brain surgeon was among the group of 12 men and one teenager arrested Thursday in a child pornography sweep across Berks County.
"Possessing images of child sexual abuse is a heinous crime and will not be tolerated in Berks County," said District Attorney John Adams.
Adams, along with detectives working with his office's child abuse unit and the Lower Heidelberg Township Police Department, announced results of the 18 month investigation during a news conference in downtown Reading.
The 12 adults arrested were identified by authorities as:
- Phillip Knabb, 27, of Pine Forge Road in Douglassville;
- William Floriani, 22, of Locust Street in Reading;
- Justin Jones, 31, of Ridge Avenue in Shillington;
- Dale Williams, 47, of Hendel Street in Shillington;
- Skerling Herrera-Mercedes, 28, of West Douglass Street in Reading;
- Alan Miller, 53, of East Fourth Street in Boyertown;
- Larry Ganer, 65, of South Water Street in Womelsdorf;
- Timothy Repsik, 18, of Elaine Drive in Boyertown;
- Steven Schwartz, 47, of Winding Brook Drive in Sinking Spring;
- Michael Kendig, 63, of South Mountain Drive in Sinking Spring;
- Christopher Sackal, 41, of Bordic Road in Exeter Township;
- Craig Alabovitz, 37, of Sheerlund Road in Shillington
The juvenile, whose name was not released, is a second-time offender, officials said.
During the investigation, authorities seized the computers and electronic devices of each suspect. Adams said "thousands of child pornographic images" were identified by computer forensic detectives.
"The individuals arrested today are exploiting children, and contributing to their continuing misery and abuse," said Adams.
Investigators said there is no evidence that any of the suspects "produced" child pornography. Authorities said the suspects were not professionally employed in a position that allowed them to supervise children.
One suspect, Steven Schwartz, works as a neurosurgeon in Spring Township.
People living in Schwartz's Sinking Spring neighborhood told 69 News they are shocked by the allegations.
"It's certainly concerning, a little bit surprising and it's scary, especially because there are a lot of children in the neighborhood, and I have several of my own so it kind of hits you a little bit," said one neighbor, adding, "I hope that for him and his family, he can get the help he needs, as well as the justice that's deserved."
All 13 individuals were charged with sexual abuse of children (dissemination of photographs, videotapes, computer depictions and films) and sexual abuse of children (possession of child pornography).
Officials said each suspect could face up to seven years in prison, per count.
Authorities said nine of the suspects had surrendered to police as of Thursday afternoon. The remaining four were expected to do the same by the end of the day, officials said.
"Hopefully a message will be sent that if you possess child pornography or disseminate [it], we're going to catch you, and you're going to get arrested and suffer the consequences," said Adams.
Thursday's arrests came 18 months to the day after another countywide sweep on Dec. 19, 2012, resulted in child pornography charges against 10 men, who investigators said either possessed or distributed pornographic images of children as young as one-year-old.
A number of other suspects have been arrested on child pornography charges in the time since that sweep, including Robert Geist, a former chief of the Brecknock Township Police Department, who authorities said was once the number one possessor and distributor of child porn in Pennsylvania.
Two other men, both from Berks County, were among others arrested in April as part of a multi-state child porn bust.