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Tip leads to child pornography charges

Duncansville man released on bail after investigation results in arrest

A tip about suspected child pornography from a social media website has led to charges against a Duncansville man.

Austin Claar, 34, of 3143 Colonial Drive, was taken into custody Thursday morning after a five-month investigation allegedly connected him to suspected child pornography file sharing, with more files found after a search of his home.

After receiving a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in late April that five files of suspected child pornography had been uploaded by a user of the social network site MeWe, a special agent with the Attorney General’s Child Predator Section traced the account to Claar, according to the charges.

MeWe reported the uploads in late January and provided the user name of “Auz Clar” as well as an AOL email address for that account. The website also provided additional login IP addresses used by the user in March, Special Agent Brittany Lauck noted in the charges.

In all, the account used five different IP addresses to access MeWe using the “Auz Clar” account, and those five were the only IP addresses that the account ever used to log in.

The investigator confirmed three of the five files were child pornography and the two other reported files were also sexual in nature, according to the charges.

The investigation led to Claar after Atlantic Broadband, AOL and MeWe records were procured with subpoenas. A search warrant for the content of Claar’s MeWe account was executed in early May. That search warrant led to nine suspected child pornography images or files, with three of them appearing to be the exact files that were reported, although they had different file names.

Seven of the nine files showed indecent contact with children, according to the charges.

There was also a photo of Claar on the “Auz Clar” account that the investigator used to identify him as the MeWe user.

After surveillance was done on Claar’s home in early August, agents with the state Attorney General’s Office, federal Homeland Security agents and Allegheny Township police executed a search warrant about 8:30 a.m. Thursday.

When questioned, Claar allegedly admitted to sharing child pornography files using MeWe and that he used the AOL email address, one of three he uses, as well as the user name “Auz Clar.”

Initially, Claar claimed he was molested as a child and uploaded the child pornography to catch “predators,” Lauck wrote in the affidavit of probable cause.

Claar explained he would log in to MeWe and go directly to a chat room for child pornography and exchange files. He said he saved the files as “evidence” and “assumed the FBI would somehow be alerted and arrest the predator,” the investigator noted.

Claar said he never contacted police about this operation to identify and catch child predators.

Ultimately, Claar admitted he never tried to catch child predators but that he was interested in child pornography and he did look at, save and share the material, according to the charges.

On Thursday, a check of Claar’s electronic devices allegedly turned up 12 suspected child pornography videos on his Samsung Galaxy phone, although it was pointed out in his charges those were “a small sampling of the child pornography located on Claar’s devices.”

Claar was arrested and charged with 12 felony counts of possession of child pornography and a felony count of criminal use of a communication facility.

He was arraigned Thursday afternoon by Magisterial District Judge Matt Dunio and released on an unsecured $50,000 bond. A preliminary hearing is slated for Sept. 10.

Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7458.

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