Special Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation made what they call a “massive shutdown” of a couple of pedophiles-for-profit in Seattle, but say that the refusal from assistance of Apple could damage their case.
The story began when 22 year old Marysa Comer and 51 year old David Delay would go on the internet and find vulnerable women and teenage girls and attempt to get them to agree to being involved in a documentary film about the streets and prostitution by posing as HBO Filmmakers.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Catherine Crisham said, “Delay told his victims that he had a contract with HBO to produce a documentary on prostitution and escorting, and that if they worked for him as prostitutes to fund and participate in the ‘documentary,’ they would become famous and receive millions of dollars.”
The beginning phases of the investigation started when an underage girl went to the Redmond, Washington Police and reported that the couple had manipulated her into agreeing to be filmed and then forced her into prostitution.
That's when authorities from multiple jurisdictions in cooperation with the FBI obtained warrants to search the residence shared by Delay and Comer.
During that search execution law enforcement seized phones, computers, and electronic storage devices from Delay and Comer that they claim contain evidence of the sex-trafficking scheme.
They also recovered over 700 hotel room cards, fake contracts written with the women and children promising them payment, and thousands of images of the girls undressed and performing sexual acts.
Authorities say that Delay is believed to have shared child pornography online as well as enticed an underage girl into sending him sexually explicit videos of herself for cash.
Authorities then began questioning other potential victims after they searched the devices belonging to the pedophile creeps and found a consistent plotline where Delay would make them promises of fame and fortune using the guise that he worked for HBO as a filmmaker in exchange for them allowing him to film them.
Another girl, who was at the time 18 years of age told authorities that she had met Comer online who seduced her and made her feel as if they were in love after months of trading messages back and forth on the online platform MeetMe.com before they finally agreed to meet.
The couple then picked the teen up from her high school and tried to coax the girl into moving into their Lynnwood apartment with them, according to the FBI.
They eventually manipulated the girl into believing that if she engaged in prostitution and allowed them to film it for a share of the proceeds, they were going to sell the footage to HBO, and promised her $20 million as her share.
The girl agreed and this went on for several months as they traveled the United States through Oregon, Florida, Nevada, Texas, and Illinois charging patrons as low as $120 each time to have sex with the girl.
Finally later that fall, the girl called her mother and told her what had been going on and she escaped the vile pedophiles.
According to the witnesses and the FBI during their travels, there were dozens of other girls many of whom were underage who would tag along for the cross-country prostitution ring being promised wealth and fame.
Comer and Delay would often abandon one of the girls once they began to realize that he was a con-artist and they would likely never be paid, and he'd simply replace them with another female.
Investigators have located several of the children and adult victims who have all given similar testimony in the case.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation said Delay actually did have a legitimate film business known as “Grampa’s RV Productions”, but that he apparently used it as a front for his child sex trafficking and child pornography ring that spanned all across the United States.
Some of the young women told the FBI that Delay indeed had a treasure trove of child pornography on his phone, which was an iPhone 6.
Unfortunately for the FBI they were unable to gain access to the device due to Apple's extreme encryption, and couldn't obtain the evidence for additional charges.
They attempted to contact Apple for assistance who refused to grant them entry into the device.
After a year of waiting to gain access to the device, the Federal Bureau of Investigation says they now have designed a new tool that gives them entry into Apple’s encryption.
Inside the phone they found hundreds of online advertisements that prove Comer and Delay were essentially “pimping out the girls” with online advertisements on sites like Backpage.com where they would sell the girls bodies for cash to high profile “Johns”.
With the trial fast approaching this month Special Agents are now in a race against time to locate the customers who paid for sex with the children and the adult females in an attempt to bring about additional charges against both those who paid for sex and the couple behind the sex trafficking ring.
If Apple had helped the FBI before now this case could have been wrapped up and dozens if not hundreds of pedophiles could have been arrested.
Apple has a history of refusing court orders to assist investigators including an order given after the San Bernardino shooting to decrypt shooter Syed Farook’s iPhone 5, a model which was a generation older than the one used in this pedophile ring.
In that case, Farook and his wife had infamously killed 14 people in a clear terrorist attack yet Apple CEO Tim Cook argued that governments, both in the U.S. and overseas, were likely to use any tools provided by Apple in other cases, undermining data privacy.
While the Department of Justice was eventually able to develop a costly tool to gain entry, Apple is an American company that continues to refuse to cooperate with Law Enforcement in bringing these types of monsters to justice.
Comer originally pleads to a conspiracy charge for assisting Delay in his cross-country crimes and was sentenced to a Tacoma halfway house. However, a judge revoked that sentence once it was realized that while in the halfway house Comer was sending text messages to minor children who had been released from Washington's juvenile detention center.
Further underscoring my continued statements that there is no cure for pedophiles, where this woman continued to feed her addiction to young girls even while incarcerated.
Defense attorneys for Delay are also now trying to suppress the information acquired from the iPhone because Apple didn't assist in the decryption process and suggesting that somehow due to encryption laws anything found on that device cannot be used against him.
That's the slippery slope in regards to encryption, whereas the Supreme Court has yet to argue or rule on the technology of security as of the date in order to give the prosecution or the defense a leg to stand on.
This case could go as far as the Supreme Court in an appeal even if the couple is convicted, which would be crucial for similar cases in the future.
The FBI is hoping that the nation's highest court in the land can force private companies such as Apple to grant them access to devices which are privy to an investigation.
As of right now, only three charges of sec trafficking can stick to delay due to the possibilities of some of the evidence being thrown out.
If he is convicted, Delay could face life in prison, and now Comer could face up to ten years, but that's assuming that the evidence isn't tossed out that was acquired from the iPhone.
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There is not excuse for this kind of exploitation. Makes me sick. That said, I still don't like the idea of the government being able to force a corporation into sharing your data either. Don't know where the happy medium there would be honestly.