Eleven-Month Investigation Comes to a Close
On Friday morning, FBI agents arrested a 34-year-old man for allegedly soliciting sexual contact with a nine-year-old boy online, according to legal documents reviewed by the Broadsheet. This was the culmination of an investigation that began in February, when an online user of the Scruff app calling himself “Evan” sent a text message to another user, with the words, “how’s it going.”
“Evan” was an anonymous screen name for Efrem Zelony-Mindell, a curator and painter based in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The user to whom Evan had unwittingly reached out was undercover FBI agent Aaron Spivack, who is assigned to that agency’s Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Task Force.
Mr. Zelony-Mindell and Agent Spivack were next in touch two months later, when the former asked whether the latter was “into taboo.” Agent Spivack replied that he was interested in “taboo yng incest dad son.”
In May, Mr. Zelony-Mindell texted to Agent Spivack that he was interested in pedophilia and videos containing child pornography, and asked, “could we trade a face picture dude? Love seeing sexy pedo’s.” When Agent Spivack sent a spurious photo, Mr. Zelony-Mindell replied by sending explicit images and a video of child pornography and rape.
This prompted Agent Spivack to inform Mr. Zelony-Mindell “that a friend with a 9-year-old child would be willing to meet.” Charging documents note that “the purported friend was a law enforcement officer acting in an undercover capacity and the purported 9-year-old child was fictitious.” The second law enforcement officer (whose name is not revealed in court documents) informed Mr. Zelony-Mindell that he lived in Tribeca. This caused Mr. Zelony-Mindell to send the second investigator more images and videos of children being sexually violated.
On October 3, 2022, Mr. Zelony-Mindell indicated that he was likely to travel to New York between December 15 and 22, and for the first time shared his personal mobile telephone number. Charging documents recount that “Zelony-Mindell and [undercover 2] agreed to meet on Friday, December 16, 2022, at 9 a.m. at a coffee shop in the vicinity of Duane Street between Greenwich Street and Hudson Street in Manhattan.”
Mr. Zelony-Mindell arrived at approximately 9:48 am, according to charging documents, at which time he was surrounded by uniformed and plainclothes FBI agents, and arrested.
He has been charged with one count of attempted enticement of a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years in prison and a maximum of life in prison. He has also been charged with one count of distribution of child pornography, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum of 20 years in prison; and one count of possession of child pornography, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.