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Communications Chief at Mar-a-Lago Convicted in Child Porn Case

Soldier handled calls for the president
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 29, 2019 9:17 AM CDT
President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate is in Palm Beach.   (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

(Newser) – A staff sergeant who ran White House communications for the Army at Mar-a-Lago has been sentenced in a child pornography investigation. Richard Ciccarella, 34, had admitted he uploaded photos of an underage girl, who is a relative of his, to a Russian website, the Miami Herald reports, though his conviction was for making false statements to a federal agent. Prosecutors said the photos were not pornography, but Ciccarella posted "dirty comments welcomed." He used an email address linked to his work phone to get to the site, court filings show. A judge gave him three years' probation and 100 hours of community service, and ordered that he undergo sex offender treatment. Ciccarella cannot have unsupervised contact with children under age 18, per CNN. He remains in the Army.

Ciccarella's responsibilities at President Trump's Florida resort included setting up and handling "communications for the president" in parts of 2017 and 2018, his lawyer wrote. Before that, he worked the White House switchboard, making calls for the president, and traveled with the president and vice president. One expert says the Ciccarella case was a security risk. "If a foreign adversary became aware of this, clearly he becomes a huge blackmail target," the expert said. Security officials already worry about Mar-a-Lago, where it's easier to breach security than at the White House. (A Chinese woman was convicted in a Mar-a-Lago breach.)

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