Santa Clarita man gets 20 years in child pornography case 

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A former Navy SEAL from Santa Clarita was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison Thursday for three counts of production of child pornography.  

Robert Quido Stella, 51, who previously was identified as a former chief of a Navy SEAL intelligence unit, was convicted of three counts last May that he used high-tech surveillance equipment to make child pornography involving minors. He was also using cryptocurrency to traffic child pornography on the dark web using a special browser, according to officials.   

Stella had faced a minimum of 15 years and a maximum of 30 years for each charge.  

During his four-day trial, prosecutors presented the jury with evidence collected by Homeland Security agents who found 17 videos and more than 100 screenshots from those videos of minor victims naked and partially undressed, according to previous reporting in The Signal. 

“Stella hid these images under multilevel digital folder structures on a hard drive bearing misleading titles such as ‘course work,’” officials said in a news release that announced his conviction.   

In May 2021, officers with the German Federal Criminal Police Office tipped off agents in Homeland Security Investigations Cyber Crimes Center about their efforts to shut down a web platform set up for trafficking child sexual abuse material.  

A subsequent Homeland Security agent’s investigation uncovered Stella’s efforts to hide the CSAM on his personal computers.  

“On July 15, 2021, agents found collections of CSAM on Stella’s computer and two external hard drives,” according to a Department of Justice news release. “Stella concealed some of the collections in digital folders structures bearing misleading titles such as ‘federal contracts’ and ‘tax returns.’”  

HSI agents also recovered some of the equipment Stella used, such as a hidden camera “disguised as a USB charging block.” Stella used the hidden camera to film his minor victims in private situations, according to federal officials.  

Stella has been in custody since his arrest in July 2021. 

The case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse, according to the department’s release. 

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