March 25, 2002
Woodinville worker, Fall City man caught in Candyman sting
by Jeanette Knutson
Two area men have been snared in the FBI's so-called Operation Candyman sting, the nationwide crackdown on an Internet-based child pornography ring.
Apparently the men were members of a Yahoo! e-group on the Internet named "the candyman" and traded pornographic images involving children.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported last week that according to Charles Mandigo, FBI special agent in charge of the Seattle office, the e-group had 7,000 subscribers worldwide, 4,600 of which were in the United States, 40 of whom were in Washington state.
The candyman e-group has been closed down.
FBI special agent Ray Lauer, media representative for the agency, said late last week that the Seattle office had only taken one person into custody so far, a Lake Stevens man, Michael Scott Powers, who was released - according to Lawrence Lincoln, press spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office - on a personal recognizance bond the day he appeared in federal court.
According to Lincoln, Powers will have Pre-trial Services supervision. This means he has to notify the Pre-trial Services personnel if he goes out of the jurisdiction. He must agree not to break any local, state or federal laws. He has to report on a regular basis to the Pre-trial Services office.
Powers worked at the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery for 10 years. He was manager of networks.
According to Kari Leitch, director of communications for Stimson Lane Vineyards and Estates, "On March 7, at 4:30 p.m., the FBI arrived at the winery saying they had proof of illegal activity."
They wrapped up their investigation at the winery mid-evening, she said.
"The next day," said Leitch, "when (Powers) showed up for work, we immediately asked for and received his resignation.
"(The FBI stated) they did have credible proof that illegal acts had taken place on the premises.
"He no longer has any connection to this winery - and never will.
"We were totally shocked, just like everyone else.
"The winery has cooperated with the investigators in all aspects of the investigation," said Leitch.
Powers will have a preliminary hearing on March 29. It will be a probable cause hearing, said Lincoln of the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The fact that U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft appeared on TV to announce this sting operation is an indication of how seriously the Department of Justice, and hence the Seattle office, are taking this child pornography issue, said Lincoln.
Some of those arrested will go to federal court and face federal felony charges. Such charges can carry a maximum penalty of five years' prison time and a $250,000 fine.
FBI agents have served a warrant on and searched the home of a Fall City man also associated with the Candyman e-group.
The man has not been arrested. Neither the FBI nor the U.S. Attorney's Office will comment on anyone who has not been charged.