Sunday, July 22, 2018
Public safety

Disney employee, Lego builder among 11 arrested in Polk child porn sting

A Disney World employee, a Lego builder for Legoland, and a teenager were among 11 people arrested Monday in a child porn sting, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

Each faces multiple charges of possession of child pornography following an operation dubbed "Guardians of Innocence II."

"Once we serve search warrants and seize the devices that these suspects are using to download and distribute pornography, we will do a complete forensic analysis," Polk Sheriff Grady Judd said in a prepared statement, "and in all likelihood we will be adding on more charges related to the felony possession and distribution of images and videos of children being sexually battered."

The 11 men face a total of 660 felony charges.

Roger Catey, a 53-year-old Davenport man, was arrested on 24 counts of child possession and two counts of promotion of sexual performance by a child. Catey told deputies he was employed by Disney World as a project manager for the costume department and had been viewing child pornography for a year. Disney has since terminated Catey effective June 4, according to a spokeswoman for the organization. Deputies said they found files that depicted child pornography involving children as young as 3.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, deputies found that Rickie Vargas-Garcia, 30, also of Davenport, had files depicting child pornography involving victims ages 3 to 5. He told deputies he went online and solicited the photos from underage girls — the youngest being 11 — by tricking them into thinking he was 18. Vargas-Garcia faces 10 counts of child pornography. He was previously employed at Legoland’s parent company Merlin Entertainments*, where models are built at an offsite location for the theme park, Julie Estrada, a spokeswoman for Merlin Entertainments, said. Vargas-Garcia has never been in a guest-facing or park-based role, Estrada said.

After a tip that child pornography was being downloaded by a computer at a Lake Alfred address, deputies arrested 69-year-old Donald Marich, a retired teacher from Arizona. He lives alone and holds an annual pass for Disney. The Sheriffs Office said Marich often visited the theme park alone. He faces 16 counts of child pornography and three counts of the promotion of child pornography.’

Also arrested was a 16-year-old boy who attends Haines City High School. The warrant came after the Sheriff’s Office received a tip about the files being downloaded to Dropbox. After checking the teen’s phone, deputies said they found pictures with victims as young as 12 to 24 months old.

More charges may be pending, Judd said, and deputies are checking to make sure no local victims were involved in making the videos.

"Most of the images we saw during this investigation depicted children being sexually battered, that we have seen before, which means we haven’t yet identified any local child victims," Judd said. "But as always, that is also a part of our investigation."

* Editor’s note: This article and its headline have been corrected to show that Rickie Vargas-Garcia did not work at the Legoland theme park, but at its parent company, Merlin Entertainments.

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