By Chris Raia
PROVIDENCE (WPRI) - A Rhode Island state probation officer assigned to the sex offender unit was convicted on Monday of being a sex offender, U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha announced on Tuesday.
Gerald Silva, 59, of Coventry, was arrested back in 2012 in connection with a massive investigation into Toronto-based production company Azov Films. The investigation, known as Operation Spade and led by members of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Toronto Police Service, revealed that Silva was one of more than 10,000 customers who had purchased online videos from Azov Films.
At least 348 of the company’s customers – including Silva – were charged with purchasing child pornography from the website, according to Toronto Police.
Silva was convicted of completing 22 orders through Azov Film’s website, spending a total of $1,589 on 75 different videos, each of which depicted child pornography. The videos, police say, were shipped to Silva’s Coventry residence while he was employed as a probation officer. “Dozens of videos” were seized from Silva’s home during an authorized police search in 2012.
During his trial, Silva claimed he had ordered and collected the videos as part of an ongoing professional project, but a jury returned a guilty verdict after less than an hour of deliberations.
Silva was charged and convicted on six counts of receiving child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography. Each count of receiving child pornography is punishable by a minimum of 5 years in federal prison and up to lifetime supervised release. Possession of child pornography is punishable by up to 10 years in federal prison.
Silva is scheduled to be sentenced on May 16.
Another Rhode Islander, 60-year-old Warwick resident _____, was also charged in connection with Operation Spade. _____, a longtime high school teacher, pleaded guilty to one count of possessing child pornography in August 2013. He was sentenced to 18 months in a halfway house.
Operation Spade was a three-year global investigation that led to the rescue of 386 children and 348 arrests, according to the Toronto Police website. Arrested suspects included six law enforcement officials, nine religious leaders, 40 school teachers, three foster parents, 32 children volunteers and nine health professionals.
Azov Films was shut down in 2011, and its owner was arrested.