A Saginaw man is facing prison time after authorities allegedly caught him exchanging child pornographic images on the dark web, a part of the internet hidden to most users.
Jesse V. Medina, 36, is charged with two counts of child pornography.
According to a criminal complaint filed in April, the investigation into Medina began after federal agents learned he was exchanging messages on the computer expressing his interest in “prepubescent child pornography.”
In the messages, Medina allegedly described a two-year history of sexually abusing a friend’s child who he claimed is now 6-years-old.
He also allegedly talked about plans for engaging in sexual abuse with a minor child, according to the complaint.
David Alley, a special agent with Homeland Security Investigation (HIS) of the United States Department of Homeland Security, said investigators used the messages to obtain a federal search warrant.
The search warrant was executed in April at Medina’s home in Saginaw.
Alley said after serving the search warrant, Medina agreed to be interviewed at the Saginaw Police Department. That’s where Alley said Medina admitted to receiving child pornography on the computer.
“He explained that at least once a month, and sometimes more often, he receives child pornography by using an 'app' that he can access through his cellular telephone,” according to the complaint.
Medina also admitted he used a computer to share images of a girl he thought was 14-years-old having sex with an adult male, Alley said.
“He denied having sexually abused a young child, and claimed that his prior accounts of doing so were a fantasy, but admitted that he had unsuccessfully attempted to gain access to a 5-year-old for sexual contact,” the complaint states.
Investigators said Medina lived in the same home as his 13-year-old niece and 10-year-old nephew.
Medina is also the school board president for the North Saginaw Charter Academy in Kochville Township, a charter school through Central Michigan University. The center said they found out about Medina's arrest on April 25 and immediately suspended him.
Since that date, Medina has not been able to take any action or participate in any school functions.
Medina was appointed in 2013 and re-appointed in 2017.
The center said all board members are subject to a background check and online search, which he passed without any red flags.
Parents said they were not notified about his suspension or any details about the case.
"I was really angry. I was pretty horrified," said Nikki Ewald, parent.
Ewald has two kids who attend North Saginaw Charter Academy. She claims the schools did not notify parents about Medina's arrest.
"I felt like that was pretty inappropriate that they had not told us anything in regards to any of these charges," Ewald said.
The school said parents were notified by email on April 27 and June 13. A school spokesperson said the principal informed parents that media reports about a board member would be coming out and if they had any questions or concerns they should contact the principal.
Ewald insists she never got an email and believes the academy should have done more to keep parents informed.
"I think that the school is responsible for keeping our children safe when they're not at home. And I think that's part of it is keeping the parents informed of the people that have been around our children," Ewald said.
The school spokesperson also said Medina had shared with administrators his intention to resign, but did not say when that would happen.
As for Ewald, she understands Medina is innocent until proven guilty, but if he is convicted on child porn charges she wants him to be held accountable.
"I hope that he gets what's coming to him. I hope that he spends a long, long time locked up," Ewald said.
What is the dark web?
"The back alley of the internet is I guess the best way to describe it," said Carl Heiden, with Heiden Technology Solutions.
The dark web is home to websites you can't find by using Google or Bing.
"The only way you can get to the dark web is if you use special tools, special browsers, software to be able to connect to it," the IT expert said.
Heiden said once you've accessed it, you are harder to track - nearly anonymous.
What allows this is something called domain name services or DNS.
"So what happens is everybody has an IP address, has an address of who they are when they go out and browse the web. So what this DNS does is it aliases it so you can't tell who they are or where they come from. Things like that," Heiden said.
Because of the anonymity, it attracts unsavory characters.
"People's stolen credit card numbers are for sale on the dark web, weapons, trafficking, things like that," Heiden said.
Since a lot of illegal dealings happen on the dark web, the FBI keeps a close eye on it and has developed ways of tracking users.
Heiden said it's best to just keep away from it.
"There's really no other reason to go on it other than to do those types of activities," Heiden said.
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