Court records indicate a Santa Clarita Valley man who worked as a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputy is accused of using a Snapchat alias to download multiple pornographic images of children, which ultimately led to his dismissal and criminal charges, according to a court transcript released Tuesday to The Signal.
In his May 7 testimony, Sgt. Roger Ballesteros of the LASD Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau said a detective with the LASD Special Victims Bureau shared a cyber tip Jan. 31, 2020, regarding a sworn deputy, Scott Rodriguez, of Agua Dulce, and underage pornography being published to the deputy’s personal Snapchat account.
The former deputy’s defense counsel has challenged the merit of Ballesteros’ suspicion of his client on the grounds that the investigator didn’t interview any Snapchat employee about their company policies and procedures, a medical doctor had not confirmed the age of the children in the photos allegedly downloaded and, outside of the original web alert sent to law enforcement, none of the images existed on Rodriguez’s social media account when deputies began to collect evidence last spring.
Encrypted Wi-Fi signal
Before officially handing the case over to Ballesteros and the Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau, Special Victims Unit detectives reportedly conducted a warrant search on the location, finding that the IP address associated with the image downloads were run through an encrypted Wi-Fi signal, where Rodriguez, a K9 handler for the department, and his wife, an administrative operations deputy in the department’s custody investigative service, lived with their infant child, according to court records.
The download from which the current case stems occurred on or around July 18, 2019, and consisted of five images: one image of an approximately 7-year-old girl nude and being penetrated by a foreign object; and four others were of nude 10-year-old girls in sexual positions or committing sexual acts, Ballesteros testified.
An iMac computer at the home was also searched, and Ballesteros said there were 59 images of nude girls on there, as well. But despite having a watermark on each image that read “TEENFUNS,” investigators could not confirm whether the girls in the images were of legal age.
Rodriguez’s defense counsel Michael Williamson said the only evidence that the Snapchat photos existed was within the alert from Snapchat itself, and that the initial detective did not request a preservation letter for the evidence. He also challenged the methodology detectives used to determine whether Rodriguez’s now-ex-wife had in fact been at work at the time of downloads.
“He did confirm that he had a couple of Snapchat accounts, one that was sort of his public Snapchat account and one that only he knew about,” said the internal investigator, when recounting his April 9, 2020, questioning of Rodriguez. “I don’t remember off the top of my head what his … legitimate Snapchat account was, but he did say his own personal (account) that he knew about was ‘Stewy68’ was the Snapchat account, and the email associated with that account was ‘[email protected].’”
Both the username and email pointed investigators to an IP address on the 22000 block of Vasquez Canyon Road, where both Rodriguez and his now-ex-wife resided with their child, Ballesteros said. Rodriguez also confirmed the number “68” in the username and email was an homage to the defendant’s high school football number.
After comparing the couple’s work schedules against what they determined to be the exact time the images were downloaded, Ballesteros said he believed that only Rodriguez could have initiated the transfer of illegal images.
“We went over (his then-wife’s) work schedule, and we were able to confirm that, during the time that these … images were uploaded, she was at work at that time,” said Ballesteros, adding that, in a separate interview, Rodriguez himself later gave a statement confirming he was working at the home at the time the downloads were flagged.
A case was formally filed by the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office on Jan. 22 of this year, charging the former deputy — on the same day that he was released from county service — with one count of possessing child pornography.
When asked why Rodriguez was not listed on the Sheriff’s Department’s inmate locator — a standard practice for almost all other criminal cases within the county — officials instructed The Signal to file a Public Records Act request.
Rodriguez is set to return to court July 12 for a pretrial hearing. A pretrial hearing involves the judge, prosecution and defense convening in order to present evidence, documents and/or any other relevant materials/matters before the trial begins.