Ex-Seton Hill prof gets 15 years for child porn

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A nationwide child-pornography sting that began with the shutdown of a Los Angeles distributor in 2006 resulted Wednesday in a 15-year prison term for a former Seton Hill University assistant professor who bought child porn from federal agents and secretly filmed young boys in the bathrooms at his home.

Balazs Tarnai, 36, a Hungarian national in the U.S. on a work visa who specialized in the sex education of autistic children, pleaded guilty to producing child pornography and was immediately sentenced.

U.S. District Judge David Cercone also ordered that he be placed on probation for the rest of his life when he gets out.

Tarnai had been indicted on porn possession charges in 2011 and again in 2012, when the U.S. attorney's office added charges related to four boys, all brothers in a Greensburg family, who he filmed with hidden cameras mounted in the bathrooms of his home in Unity.

Tarnai was one of many targets of an undercover operation arranged by U.S. postal inspectors after they raided a Los Angeles mail-order porn distributor in December 2006. Using the company's customer list, they set up a fake website and sent ads to those who had ordered videos previously.

Tarnai was on that list. In 2005, he ordered 14 child porn videos and took delivery of them at his residence in State College, while he was earning his doctorate at Penn State University.

He moved to the Greensburg area to take a job at Seton Hill in July 2008. In 2011, postal inspectors posing as employees of the defunct California distributor sent him an ad for videos. He ordered two and received them at his house March 30, 2011, from a postal inspector posing as a letter carrier. He was watching the material when inspectors and police knocked on the door to execute a search warrant.

Troopers and Greensburg police seized DVDs, CDs and his laptop computer. During an interview, he told inspectors that the video he ordered "crossed the line."

A forensic search of the laptop turned up videos of four boys -- ages 5, 10, 12 and 13 -- urinating and showering in bathrooms at Tarnia's house. Police also found hidden cameras mounted in the bathrooms.

Inspectors later determined that all of the boys were members of a family that had befriended Tarnai when he moved to Westmoreland County. The Post-Gazette does not name the victims of sex crimes.

Tarnai's lawyer, Alexander Lindsay, had argued that the porn videos were actually part of Tarnai's sex research on children, but prosecutors said he used his position as a special education sex researcher to mask his interest in child pornography.

Seton Hill fired him in November 2011.

education - state - neigh_westmoreland


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