(video at above link)FBI links kid porn to Bastrop County
Florida arrest caps multi-year investigation
Wednesday, April 14, 2010Members of Star Ranch nudist group helped lead FBI officials to a man they believe made child-pornography tapes that have appeared in more than 100 FBI child-porn investigations in the last decade. (Josh Hinkle/KXAN)
BASTROP, Texas (KXAN) - FBI agents in Florida arrested a former Austin man they said is the creator of child pornography videos known as "the tent series," featuring the sexual assault of an 11-year-old girl.
David Andrew Diehl, 48, was arrested at his home in Orange Park, Fla., after a five-year investigation into the series. The videos feature the sexual assault of the young girl inside a camping tent and have turned up more than 100 times in FBI porn investigations throughout the past decade, officials said.
Authorities believe the tapes were made in Bastrop County, Texas, just outside of Austin, around the year 2000.
Police have interviewed the victim, now 20, but said they fear there may be more victims and are searching for others who may have been attacked. They have identified at least one more potential victim, who the initial victim said was assaulted at the same time she was. The second girl does not show up in the video tapes.
The victim told FBI investigators that he didn't threaten them but that he did say they'd get into trouble if they told anyone.
Diehl faces federal pornography production charges and state aggravated sexual assault charges. He is in a magistrate hearing this week in Florida to determine when and if he'll be extradited to Texas to face trial on the charges.
If convicted, he could face life in prison.
Records show that Diehl was married, having been with his wife since she was 15 and he was 31. The two are divorced. The ex-wife helped FBI agents identify her husband in the tapes, as well as a vehicle that appeared in one of the videos. They have a teenage son, who had lived with Diehl until his arrest last week.
Diehl was traced through a Bastrop County, Texas, nudist group known as " Star Ranch ," according to an affidavit for Diehl's arrest. The group - which is not facing any charges in connection with the case - was identified when investigators saw a million-dollar novelty bill in the video and were able to find out that they were made for the group.
Star Ranch issued a statement: "We have assisted in an FBI cyber crime investigation and we do not have any results. In the interest of justice we do not want to say anything that might compromise the prosecution of this case. We applaud the authorities for their diligence in the investigation of this case."
Members and employees of the Star Ranch helped FBI investigators identify the girl in the videos - who confirmed that Diehl was her attacker - and also confirmed that Diehl would have been in possession of the novelty bill, according to an arrest warrant.
That information led to the identification and arrest of Diehl in his Florida home outside Jacksonville last week.The "tent series" was enormously popular in the underground, child pornography culture, having turned up in cases for more than a decade.
One of those cases apparently happened in Maine, and when an analyst with the Maine State Police started her investigation, she used water bottles and the novelty bill to trace the tape to the location it was allegedly made, the affidavit indicated.
An Ozarka water bottle clued her in to the Southeast and Central United States area, the only place that brand distributes. The million-dollar novelty bill was traced to its manufacturer, which noted that it had the name of the Star Ranch on it – and was able to confirm that it had made the novelty bills in 2000 for that group, which is based in McDade, Texas. That is about 35 miles east of Austin.
A ranch employee confirmed for the FBI that they had used the bills to host the 2000 Southwestern Sunbathing Association Conference in June 2000. About 400 people were at the conference - half of them members, half of them guests of members.
The employee saw a still image of the victim's face from the video and identified her immediately by name, saying she'd known her and her family since the victim was a small girl.
The victim's parents had apparently worked the ranch during the conference, so the girl was unsupervised for hours at a time, though described as very mature and responsible for her age, the affidavit said. They determined that the girl had to have known her attacker, because she was normally very private and "protective of her body."
The victim had last gone to the ranch in 2008 with her family and her boyfriend, the employee said.
When interviewed last October, the victim told the FBI she was sexually assaulted twice at the ranch when she was 9 in the assailant's car and in his cabin. She identified her attacker as Diehl.
The following summer, when she and her parents returned, she said he asked her to join him in the tent or cabin again and she said no. Other campers noticed that he was following her around the ranch, and it was reported to the director - who kicked him off the ranch that same day.
When she was interviewed in January, Diehl's ex-wife told FBI agents that said he had an unnatural fixation on young girls - as evidenced by his relationship with her
when she was 15 and he was twice her age, the affidavit said. She also told agents that he shared a file server with a Florida man who had recently been charged with child pornography.
McDade residents defended the nearby nude ranch after finding out about the accusations.
"I've never been out there," Gary Glosson said. "I don't bother them. They don't bother me."
Glosson and neighbor Zachariah Chamberlain said the town and the ranch remain separate, but it hits close to home especially having kids around the same age.
"If he is guilty, then he should be put in jail forever," Chamberlain said.
Chamberlain added that he spent his summers growing up at Star Ranch and wanted others to know this incident should not reflect poorly on the site.
"There's a lot of people that are seedy and evil that keep their clothes on," he said.