By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The former police chief of a New York town was sentenced to 1-1/2 years in prison on Wednesday for possessing child pornography in a case that helped crack an extensive child pornography operation in New York state.
Brian Fanelli, 56, the former chief in Mount Pleasant, New York, pleaded guilty in July to one count of child pornography. He was sentenced in White Plains federal court.
Fanelli's arrest in January 2014 and the arrest of a Brooklyn rabbi two months later alerted authorities to an online network in which people traded sexually explicit images and videos of children.
From April 4 to May 15, 2014, federal agents and New York City police infiltrated a file sharing network in an investigation dubbed "Operation Caireen." They seized 600 computers, tablets, smartphones and thumb drives.
As a result, 71 people from New York City's five boroughs and other parts of the state were charged with crimes involving the sexual exploitation of children.
"Brian Fanelli, a former police chief who swore to protect and serve, instead helped fuel a market that victimizes and exploits some of the most vulnerable in our community," U.S. Attorney in Manhattan Preet Bharara said in a statement.
According to documents, federal prosecutors had sought more than three years in prison for Fanelli, while his lawyer asked U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas not to impose prison time given Fanelli's previously unblemished record.
Prosecutors said Fanelli had downloaded more than 120 files between October 2013 and January 2014, while teaching sexual abuse awareness classes to children as a volunteer at a local church.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax)