Former Boynton Beach Police Officer Gets Two Years for Possession of Images of Child Exploitation
A man previously employed by the Boynton Beach Police Department will serve two years in federal prison after pleading guilty to possession of obscene images showing children being subjected to sexual abuse. Like many people who buy abusive images online, he and the people who conspired with him in the trafficking of the images tried to cover their tracks in a web of lies. He eventually got caught, and while it cost him his career, his criminal punishment was much more lenient than it could have been.
The Charges: Possession of Obscene Images Involving a Minor
The defendant, Gabriel Albala of Margate, worked as a police officer for the Boynton Beach Police Department. According to court documents, on several occasions in the fall of 2018, Albala contacted David Drake, a college student in Alabama, through Drake’s Tumblr page, on which Drake advertised sexually explicit material depicting minors. He followed the prompts on Drake’s Tumblr page, which directed him to a website called Wickr, a software developed by security experts specifically so users can send encrypted and content-expiring communications. On Wickr, Drake sent messages listing the prices of the obscene images, which ranged in price from $10 to $50. Albala then used a variety of payment apps to send payment to Drake in exchange for the images, including Amazon, the Cash App, and Venmo. Drake labeled the transactions as though they were for expenses related to his university education, such as textbooks and tutoring.
The Investigation: Images and Transactions Traced to the Defendant’s Computer
By the time that Albala purchased the first images from Drake, the authorities were already on Drake’s trail. In August 2018, Drake pleaded guilty to five counts of the advertisement, possession, and sale of materials showing exploitation of children. During the investigation, it became obvious that the transactions that Drake had labeled “tutoring class,” “textbook,” and the like were actually for the sale of illegal materials. As part of the plea deal, Drake provided the government with the names or online pseudonyms of people who had purchased illegal material from him. The FBI used Drake’s transaction records to confirm the identities of the people who had bought illegal images from him.
The transaction that sealed Albala’s fate was a $30 Venmo payment to Drake, which the latter had labeled “tutor.” The FBI traced the IP address to a computer at Albala’s home in Margate. In July 2019, agents went to the house where the computer was located. No one was home, but a police car belonging to the Boynton Beach Police Department was parked outside; neighbors told the agents that the house belonged to Albala but that he was traveling out of town for a funeral.
The Arrest: Defendants Admits to Possessing Illegal Images
In August 2019, after Albala returned to South Florida, the agents obtained a warrant and searched Albala’s home. They found the desktop computer with the IP address that had made the Venmo payment to Drake. Several sexually explicit images of minors were stored on the computer; other obscene images depicting minors were saved on Albala’s cell phone. Some of the children in the images appeared to be younger than 12.
Albala admitted that the devices and the images belonged to him, and he was arrested for possession of exploitative material involving minors. He was arrested on August 29, 2019; the Boynton Beach Police Department relieved him of his duties the same day.
The Plea Deal: 30 Months in Federal Prison, Plus Probation
On January 15, 2020, the Boynton Beach Police Department terminated Albala’s employment; he had held the position since 2006. The following day, he entered a guilty plea. In June 2020, a federal judge sentenced Albala to 30 months in federal prison. Upon release, he must complete five years of probation and register as a sex offender. The Sun Sentinel did not give any other details about his plea deal. Sometimes the conditions of plea deals for sex-related offenses require the defendant to avoid situations which would enable him to reoffend. For example, a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputy who pleaded guilty to a similar crime is no longer allowed to be in the presence of children; he can only see his own children when another adult is present.
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