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UPDATE: Former Ripley Police Officer Pleads Guilty to Child Porn

By: Jeremy Edwards, Anna Baxter, Andrew Colegrove Email
By: Jeremy Edwards, Anna Baxter, Andrew Colegrove Email

UPDATE 7/1/13
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A former Ripley police officer has pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography.

31-year-old George Michael Puskas II entered the plea Monday in federal court in Charleston.

According to prosecutors, Puskas established a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old in March 2010 and took sexually explicit pictures and video of the minor.

Puskas resigned from the Ripley Police Department in May 2012, about a month after authorities executed a federal search warrant and seized a computer, a flash drive and other items he used to produce child pornography.

Puskas faces up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced on October 1.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest on this story.



UPDATE 1/11/13 @ 10 p.m.
RIPLEY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A former police officer who has been under investigation for child pornography for several months has been arrested.

George Puskas, 31, was arrested Thursday night by U.S. Marshals.

He resigned from the Ripley Police Department in May 2012 amidst an investigation alleging he had child pornography in his possession, according to the Ripley Police Chief. He was also accused of having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl from 2010 to 2011.

Mayor Carolyn Rader says while this has been a black eye for the department and the town, she feels for Puskas's family.

"We think of his wife and baby at home," she said. "When you live in a small community, and everyone knows everyone else, the whole situation is just sad."

Coincidentally, two new Ripley officers were sworn in Friday night.

Chief R.L. Fridley says this is a strong lesson for them that actions have consequences.

"We're not going to tolerate officers committing these kinds of acts," he said.

Puskas is charged with one count of possession of child pornography, one count of distributing child pornography and one count of accepting child pornography. They are all federal charges.

Puskas is accused of filming sexual acts with the teenager and sending them to others to watch, according to court documents.

Investigators say hundreds of videos and photographs were found on his computer.

Puskas is expected in court on Jan. 15.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 5/11/12 @ 11 a.m.
RIPLEY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A police officer at the center of a sexual abuse investigation has submitted his resignation.

According to court documents, Ripley Officer George Michael Puskas had child pornography and was having a romantic relationship with an underage teenager.

Police Chief Raymond Fridley tells WSAZ.com that Puskas submitted his resignation this morning -- and he accepted it.

The investigation into Puskas began when a girl told police he sexually exploited her for years.

She says the relationship began when she was 14-years-old.

But when she tried to end it -- she says she was harassed and even threatened.

Puskas has not been charged in the case.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 5/9/12 @ 7:30 p.m.
RIPLEY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- More information is being released about the investigation into a Ripley Police Officer who was placed on administrative leave last month.

Ripley Police Chief Raymond Fridley says George Michael Puskas II was placed on administrative leave in April. At that time, he would not comment on what the officer was accused of doing.

The chief told WSAZ.com the West Virginia State Police and the FBI are looking into the matter.

Puskas has never been charged with a crime, but according to an affidavit filed at the U.S. Federal Courthouse, investigators have found probable cause to believe that Puskas produced, possessed and distributed child pornography.

An affidavit is a written sworn statement of fact voluntarily made by an affiant or deponent under an oath or affirmation administered by a person authorized to do so by law. The affidavit in this case was filed April 27 at the federal courthouse in Charleston.

According to court records, investigators have obtained and executed two search warrants -- one at Puskas' apartment in Ripley and the Ripley Police Department.

During an interview with West Virginia State Police last September, a female told police she had been sexually exploited for years by Puskas.

The victim told investigators Puskas was her soccer coach when she was 6 or 7 years old.

According to the court document, the victim told investigators they began a romantic relationship when she was 14 years old and was injured during a soccer game, and Puskas carried her off the soccer field to a nearby storage room. The victim told investigators that while she and Puskas were alone in the storage room, Puskas told her "he loved her, kissed her and then asked for her phone number," according to the affidavit.

The victim says the initial relationship consisted of the two of them talking and texting each other on a daily basis. According to the document, the victim said from the beginning of their relationship Puskas was very jealous and would become angry when she spoke with other boys.

According to the document, the victim and Puskas also communicated through Facebook, email and text messaging. Puskas allegedly used several different accounts to communicate with the victim to conceal their relationship, according to the court document.

In April 2011, the victim broke off her relationship with Puskas and began dating others. Shortly later, the victim claims Puskas began harassing her.

According to the affidavit, Puskas went to her place of work in Ripley and harassed her and also followed her.

In August, 2011, the victim told investigators Puskas threatened to kill her and himself if she dated anyone other than him, according to the document. The victim told investigators that's when she decided to move to Virginia.

According to investigators, after the victim moved to Virginia, Puskas traveled there on two separate occasions and harassed her, including visiting her new place of employment and her home.

This past February, three search warrants were obtained and served for all records, including the contents of communications for accounts for Facebook account, Hotmail account and Yahoo account.

Then, a couple of months later on April 6, 2012, investigators served a search warrant at Puskas' residence and investigators seized a number of times, including:

  • three cellphones
  • two USB thumb drives
  • digital camera
  • three memory cards
  • media player
  • iPod
  • 500 GB hard drive
  • micro SC card adapter

Investigators also served a search warrant at the Ripley Police Department on April 6, 2012. During that search, investigators seized the following:

  • 80 GB hard drive
  • cell phone
  • Photosmart digital camera
  • iPhone
  • four memory cards
  • 4GB USB drive
  • Nikon, CoolPix, red digital camera
  • various CD-R discs
  • various DVD discs
  • photographs
  • sheet of paper with drawing
  • VHS video tape
  • WVU greeting card

Several parts of the affidavit are blacked out to protect email addresses and the victim's name.

Again, Puskas has never been charged with a crime. The case remains under investigation.

Puskas also remains on administrative leave without pay, according to Ripley Police Chief Raymond Fridley.

Fridley tells WSAZ.com Puskas was put on administrative leave for violating police code not directly connected to this investigation.

Fridley says there were things found during the FBI's search that revealed Puskas had items in his possession that violated police code. Once this was discovered, Fridley tells WSAZ.com Puskas was immediately put on administrative leave.

The chief would not elaborate on the items found or why they violated city code because it's a personnel matter.

"It's very, very stressful whenever you deal with situations like this ... whenever it hits home and it comes to one of your officers," Fridley said. "We're dealing with it the best we can, the guys in the department are doing very, very well. It's just one of those things that occurred and we're going to go ahead and let the FBI and the West Virginia State Police conduct their investigation and whenever that investigation is completed they will be back in touch with us and we'll deal with it from there."

Ripley City Council is expected to discuss the matter during its next meeting on Tuesday, May 15.

"It turned my stomach ... You can't trust your own city police officers where you live and even let your children out in your own yard -- wondering what's going to happen,"Sherry Perdew, a Ripley resident said.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



ORIGINAL STORY
RIPLEY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A Ripley police officer is off the job and under investigation.

Ripley Police Chief Raymond Fridley tells WSAZ.com an officer from the department is being investigated. He would not comment on what the officer is accused of doing.

That officer is currently on administrative leave from the department.

The chief says the West Virginia State Police and the FBI are looking into the matter.

West Virginia State Police would not comment on any of the details surrounding the case.

Keep clicking WSAZ.com for more updates on this developing story.


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