Jonathan Oldale, a 54-year-old Maryland man, allegedly placed a backpack with a hidden camera in the bathroom of a Silver Spring gymnastics center. The backpack, easily attributable to Oldale, led police to his house and other devices he kept at home. On at least one device, the police found evidence that Oldale had been using the darknet and that he may have used the former darknet child abuse forum “PlayPen.”
An employee at the gymnastics center found the backpack under a “wet floor” sign in front of a toilet in the bathroom. The backpack had been sitting there for three weeks, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Maryland. According to the authorities who responded to the call placed by the employee, a key fob had been attached to the outside of the backpack. The key fob, however, displayed a red light that the employee believed meant the camera had been recording. He said the (fake) key fob had felt hot to the touch when he picked it up and called the police. For three weeks, nobody noticed a backpack in front of the toilet that had a glowing red light from a key fob.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation joined Maryland authorities after they had discovered the backpack’s origin. Oldale, the 54-year-old accused pedophile, had children that had actively taken gymnastics classes at the facility. Although no information publicly exists that proves the Maryland man had not obtained any footage at the gymnastics center, no evidence exists that proves the man had successfully captured anyone in a compromising position. Maybe children preferred not to use the restroom while obstructed by a “wet floor” sign.
Both the FBI and Maryland police raided Oldale’s home in search of the man and further incriminating evidence. They found the person and evidence they had hoped to find. Electronic devices in the man’s house, for the most part, were wiped beyond what even the FBI specialists could recover—or beyond what the FBI believed would have been worth their time and resources to recover. However, forensic investigators found evidence that the man had used the Tor browser to access several child abuse platforms on the darknet.
Based on the evidence obtained during execution of the first search warrant and subsequent analysis of Oldale’s data, the FBI obtained a second search warrant under the same premise. This time, the search team pulled cameras and SD cards from Oldale’s house that they had seemingly missed the first time. A basic analysis (read: they watched the videos) revealed they had been taken in a bathroom at the man’s house. They showed children changing clothes and in other compromising positions. He held so-called “splash parties” at his house and required the children who attended to take showers before they left. Authorities knew he had taken the videos with cameras hidden in the bathroom because many of the videos featured Oldale’s face as he tried to adjust the angle of the camera.
Investigators, once again, found software used to share child pornography content, the Tor browser, and digital artifacts from deleted messages regarding child abuse platforms on the darknet. The police did not reveal the connection between the home videos and distribution software. He may have uploaded or shared the content he had taken—presumably minus the camera footage of his face. Although, in fairness, a recent case in Germany involved public identification of a man who left his face in several child abuse videos.
Oldale is being held for producing child pornography. He filmed 30 or more children.