Ruben Verastigui, a former Republican Senate staffer, was arrested on child pornography charges at his home in Washington, DC. According to a criminal complaint in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, Verastigui, 27, is accused of receiving and possessing child pornography between April 2020 and February 2021.
According to DC Metropolitan Police, the former Senate GOP staffer was charged with distributing child pornography after a year-long investigation. He was arrested on Friday, February 5 at his apartment in Northeast Washington. Authorities said that he allegedly admitted being part of the child porn ring.
Several Files of Child Pornography Found
According to investigators, Verastigui received videos of child abuse as part of an online group that authorities from the US Department of Homeland Security's Child Exploitation Unit dubbed "Application A" in court documents. However, the name of the website is yet to be revealed.
The investigators said they found several "files of child pornography" on Verastigui's cell phone and looked into a chat conversation in which the accused allegedly discussed exchanging the files and videos. During an interview with the investigators, Verastigui admitted to receiving such files.
Verastigui's name came under the spotlight after agents from Homeland Security Investigations began an operation focusing on a group of at least 18 people, who were trading child pornography online. When the authorities searched the electronic devices belonging to several members of the group, they found chat histories about exchanging pornographic material. According to the investigation, Verastigui used the pseudonym "Landon" and the handle name was "@somethingtaken".
At the time of arrest Verastigui was working as a communications manager for the nonprofit Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions—which supports Republicans who back clean energy legislation.
The nonprofit said in a statement to The Washington Post: "The details of the allegations against Verastigui are tragic and shocking. He is no longer employed by the organization and we are prepared to fully cooperate with law enforcement requests in this matter to any extent needed."
According to Verastigui's LinkedIn profile prior to joining the nonprofit, he worked as a digital director of the US Congress Joint Economic Committee for nine months. As he used to work as a digital strategist for the Senate Republican Conference as recently as July last year, it means that Verastigui committed some of the alleged offenses while he was a congressional staffer.
"We have just learned about this investigation and arrest. The individual has not worked at SRC since July 2, 2020," said a conference spokesperson in an email.