A Conewago Township man who received a pop-up scam message on his computer stating he needed to pay a "fine" for viewing child pornography tried to pay the fine, but went to police for guidance when he was unable to make a payment, charging documents state.
Edward L. Simmons apparently was targeted by scammers at random, Northern York County Regional Police Chief Mark Bentzel said.
It was merely a fortunate coincidence that he actually was viewing child pornography, the chief said.
"After he walked through our doors and confessed," investigators found enough incriminating evidence on Simmons' computer and at his home to arrest him, according to Bentzel.
"We would call this a slam dunk," the chief said.
Locked up: Now Simmons, 43, of 215 Butter Road, is in York County Prison on $15,000 bail, charged with 10 counts of possessing child pornography and possessing an instrument of crime, in this case his computer, police said.
According to charging documents, Simmons walked into Northern Regional headquarters on April 11 to complain he received a pop-up message purportedly from the Department of Justice stating he had been caught viewing child pornography online and needed to pay a fine before his computer would function again.
Simmons told Detective Mark Baker he did as the message instructed and bought a prepaid debit-type card, but was unable to send the "fine" money, police said.
"Simmons requested guidance in paying the fine to get his computer privileges restored," Baker wrote in charging documents.
Burn barrel: Simmons allowed investigators to seize his computer and search his home, and after they arrived he directed them to a burn barrel containing child pornography he was planning to burn, documents state. Those images included naked girls, police allege.
Police also found nearly 6,000 images of child porn on a thumb drive and 284 images of child porn on Simmons' computer, according to documents.
"After he got that pop-up, he had ... an epiphany and was in the process of destroying — or was going to destroy — all the pornography he had," Bentzel said.
Bentzel said the FBI had previously put out an alert about the pop-up scam. The chief confirmed the Department of Justice had nothing to do with it.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org.