Owner of Manhattan, Kansas restaurant bound over on 26 child sex counts
MANHATTAN, KANSAS – The longtime owner of a Manhattan restaurant has been bound over on 26 charges of sexual abuse against minors, KMAN Radio reports.
Arraignment is scheduled for July in Riley County District Court for Robert Iacobellis, 62, the owner of Bob’s Diner.
Charges range from aggravated indecent liberties to rape and sodomy.
KMAN reports that 24 of the counts carry a life sentence.
During a preliminary hearing Tuesday in Riley County District Court, three victims testified that Iacobellis touched, fondled or sexually assaulted them on numerous occasions, sometimes when they were as young as 7 years old, KMAN reports.
Iacobellis will be tried on 16 counts against the first victim, including charges of rape and sodomy; six counts of aggravated indecent liberties against a second victim; and four counts against a third victim.
During testimony at Tuesday’s preliminary hearing, one of the victims alleged the abuse began when her mother — who is a former weekend employee at Bob’s Diner — had Iacobellis watch her while she went to work. That victim alleged the abuse continued until January 2019.
Judge William Malcolm found enough probable cause from the testimony to proceed to trial.
Iacobellis was arrested in August 2019. An amended complaint listed 130 total charges against the three alleged victims.
Iacobellis will be arraigned at 2:30 p.m. July 6 with Judge Kendra Lewison presiding.
According to KMAN, Iacobellis remains jailed on a $400,000 bond.
April 2020 has been proclaimed by the President as National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The proclamation calls upon individuals to be aware of children’s safety and well-being, and to support efforts that promote their psychological, physical, and emotional development. April is also a time to highlight the importance of working together to prevent the abuse and neglect of children.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is committed to protecting children from abuse and educating them about how to protect themselves. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) created the Angel Watch Center in 2016 to expand its work with foreign law enforcement partners, alerting them about the intended travel by convicted registered child sex offenders from the United States to their countries. The Center ultimately aims to stop the spread of transnational child sexual abuse.
Additionally, ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)’s Project iGuardian program provides children, teens, parents, and teachers with information regarding the potential dangers of online environments and how to stay safe online. The iGuardian program team is committed to providing safety tips, a number to call, and resources to the public to avoid falling victim to online sexual predators.
As part of HSI’s Operation Predator, which was first launched in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 31,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child exploitation material, traveling overseas for the purpose of sexually abusing minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2019, more than 3,900 child predators were arrested by HSI Special Agents under this initiative and more than 1,000 victims were identified or rescued.
The Office on Trafficking in Persons (OTIP) is focused on preventing human trafficking and working to ensure that children and adults who have experienced trafficking and their families get the support and care they need to live safe and healthy lives. This focus remains the same during responses to public health emergencies such as COVID-19. As in times of disaster response, HHS recognizes that disruptions to local services, housing and economic stability, and social disconnection can further increase risk for victimization and exploitation.
Across the country, children have shifted to virtual learning which results in significantly more time spent online. In order to protect them, the Child Exploitation Investigations Unit at HSI reminds families that the agency has a variety of tools available on its iGuardian webpage to keep children safe while using the Internet.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline is fully operational during this health emergency. Polaris is continuing to update its website with resources and information for survivors.
Social Media Shareables
Tag Blue Campaign on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram using @DHSBlueCampaign. Each month we share content you can distribute on your social channels to raise awareness of human trafficking in your communities.
Predators and traffickers can gain access to victims online because people are not always aware of how dangerous these environments can be or how to keep themselves safe. Learn more from @DHSBlueCampaign: https://bit.ly/2xhHBJW
The Internet is a great way to stay in touch, but predators and traffickers oftentimes stalk online meeting places such as social media sites to lure their victims. Learn more from @DHSBlueCampaign: https://bit.ly/2xhHBJW
Texas children access the Internet all the time — using social media, instant messaging, apps on their smartphones and chat rooms. But dangerous child predators lurk online, too. They’re trying to gain children’s trust for evil purposes.
Recent studies show that 1 in 7 young people have experienced unwanted sexual solicitations online — and 1 in 3 have been exposed to unwanted sexual material online.
The Child Exploitation and Fugitive Apprehension Units, formed and overseen by the Office of the Attorney General, work relentlessly to keep our children and communities safe by arresting sexual predators/child pornographers and bringing them to justice.
The resources below are intended to help Texas parents protect their children’s safety — especially online.
10 -17 – Age range of children most often targeted by child predators online
527 – Arrests for online solicitation of a minor and promotion of child pornography in Texas
704 – Convictions for online solicitation of a minor and promotion of child pornography in Texas
Questions & Answers About Cyber Safety in Texas
How can I help fight back against online child predators?
Knowledge is power. Educate yourself — and your children — about cyber safety. Talk to your kids, nieces and nephews, and any adolescent who has access to the Internet about staying safe on the Internet.
Tell them: If they receive any inappropriate contact online, talk to you immediately. It’s OK. They won’t get into trouble. You’re there to help protect them.
As technology evolves, so do the tactics used by child predators. They may use social media, smartphone apps, chat rooms and more — all in an attempt to secure the trust of your children and convince them to meet in person.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® has an online program that teaches kids and adults how to be safe online. Visit them at netsmartzkids.org
What is “sextortion”?
Sextortion is a tactic used by online predators to blackmail, groom, entice, coerce, lure and extort their victims into complying with their demands for sexual photos and videos.
These images are used by predators and, often, shared with other predators online. A single victim’s image might be shared with thousands of other predators.
Sextortion predators pose as the child’s peer (or someone of similar age) to gain their trust and illicit images. The predator will often threaten to share the victim’s photos online unless they receive more images.
If you suspect a child has been targeted for sextortion, contact your local law enforcement agency immediately. You can also simply dial 9-1-1.
What challenges does law enforcement face?
When it comes to finding, arresting and convicting online child predators, law enforcement agencies face several challenges. These include:
Staying connected to what’s happening on the Internet both locally and across the globe
Advances in technology (and the tactics that child predators use)
The size and scope of the network of child predators who share images and tips with each other online
The sheer amount of potential leads to follow: The FBI recently reported that on just one anonymous Internet network, Tor, 1.3 million sexually explicit images of children were discovered
What is the Child Exploitation Unit (CEU)?
Introduced in 2003 in order to address the limited resources law enforcement has to fight back against such a large, growing threat as Internet child predators, the CEU investigates and responds to complaints of child pornography online.
The CEU is affiliated with the U.S. Department of Justice’s “Internet Crime AgainstChildren (ICAC) Task Force.” The Texas Attorney General’s CEU is one of three ICAC Tasks Forces Texas — the other two being the Dallas and Houston police departments.
Which laws protect children online?
The primary law to help protect children online is the “Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).”
This law aims to protect children’s personal information on websites (and other Internet services, including apps) that are aimed at children under 13 years old. The law also applies to any general audience website that knows it is collecting personal info from children that age.
COPPA requires these sites and apps to notify parents directly and get their approval before they collect, use, or disclose a child’s personal information.
Additionally, there are other federal and state laws that address cyber safety for children. These include:
Electronic communication providers and remote computer service providers must notify the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s (NCMEC) CyberTipline if a user commits a child pornography offense. (U.S. Code 2258A)
It is illegal to solicit anyone under the age of 17 (minor) — or anyone the offender believes to be under the age of 17 — online for sexual contact or to have sexually explicit communication. (Texas Penal Code 33.021)
It is illegal to possess or promote child pornography. (Texas Penal Code 43.26)
How You Can Help
Here is a collection of helpful resources from around the Web that will help you protect your children online.
Father of Denver boy found encased in
concrete pleads guilty to Child Abuse;
murder charge dropped
DENVER, CO – The father of a 7-year-old Denver boy found encased in concrete in 2018 has pleaded guilty to a child abuse charge in the case, in exchange for prosecutors dropping the murder charge against him.
Leland Pankey, 40, was charged with murder in Caden McWilliams’ death in May. In a hearing on Thursday, he pleaded guilty to child abuse resulting in death and tampering with a deceased human body.
The murder charge was dropped in the deal. Pankey now faces up to 72 years in prison.
“This agreement provides justice for Caden while ensuring that Mr. Pankey will serve a significant amount of time behind bars,” Denver District Attorney Beth McCann said in a news release Thursday. “This is one of the most horrific cases ever handled by the Denver DA’s Office and we were acutely concerned about re-traumatizing Caden’s family as well as the jury, judge and everyone else involved should this case proceed to trial.”
Pankey is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 28.
The body of McWilliams was found encased in concrete in a storage unit in the 5000 block of East Evans Avenue in Denver on Dec. 23, 2018.
McWilliams’ mother, Elisha Pankey, also pleaded guilty in August to one count of child abuse resulting in death.
The Denver Office of the Medical Examiner ruled in a report in March that Caden had been malnourished and had cocaine metabolite and methamphetamine in his system. The boy also had numerous injuries to his head, torso and extremities, according to the autopsy. He may have suffered from asphyxia, dehydration or hyperthermia, but that couldn’t be confirmed, the autopsy said.
In an interview with police in March, Elisha Pankey told investigators that Leland Pankey abused Caden while they were living in an extended-stay hotel, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. The couple and their two children had moved into the hotel in May 2018, and Leland Pankey watched the children while Elisha Pankey went to work, she told investigators.
Elisha Pankey said Caden died in July 2018 after his father kept him in a dog kennel, the affidavit said. A woman who had been in the Arapahoe County Jail with Elisha Pankey in December said Pankey told her that she believed her son suffocated in the dog kennel.
Leland Pankey kept Caden in the kennel overnight – with blankets on top of it – and the boy cried out that he was hot and thirsty, Elisha Pankey told her fellow inmate, according to the affidavit.
On the day Caden died, his mother and father bought Quikrete, trash bags and water, drove Caden’s body to the storage unit on Evans Avenue, and mixed the concrete and poured it into the kennel, the affidavit said.
The boy’s body wasn’t discovered until December, when officers responded to a domestic violence call involving the Pankeys.
Police learned that the couple had two children, and Elisha Pankey told officers that the children were with their father. When police contacted Leland Pankey, he said one child was in daycare, but he avoided answering questions about Caden, eventually telling officers the boy was with his mother, the affidavit said.
When officers interviewed a woman whose name was redacted in the affidavit, she told police that Leland Pankey had lost his son and that Pankey said her family could have their storage “because it had too many memories,” the affidavit said.
Investigators obtained a search warrant for the Pankeys’ storage unit and found Caden’s remains inside.