HCSO: Man arrested for viewing child porn in public

TAMPA - Hillsborough County deputies have arrested a man they say was viewing child porn on a computer while sitting on a bench at a Tampa shopping center.

A concerned passerby called authorities around 9:30 a.m. Thursday, saying the man was looking at the images while sitting on the sidewalk near the Terrace Collections strip mall at 4941 East Busch Blvd in Tampa.

Plainclothes detectives approached and asked the man, later identified as 29-year-old Benjamin Ashauer, to look at his computer.

Ashauer gave permission, and detectives found a "substantial" amount of graphic files depicting children from infant to approximately 12 years old engaged in various sexual activity.

Detectives say Ashauer was using the open free Wi-Fi connections at the strip mall to surf child porn web sites.

He was charged with 50 counts of possession of child pornography.

Detective Larry McKinnon said Ashauer was on a site that is like 'the Napster of child porn.'

"You can look at, download and share pictures," explained McKinnon.

McKinnon said using open Wi-Fi systems is a loophole child predators use to avoid detection.  If they use a businesses' open Wi-Fi, the IP address is registered to the business, not a person or residence.

"These cases are rare," he explained.

Sherelle Cantave frequents the strip mall with her children to use the laundromat.  She is concerned this happened in an area she feels is child-friendly.

"It is heart-wrenching," explained Cantave.  "It is crazy disturbing."

McKinnon said business owners and residents can protect their Wi-Fi by needing a password to login.  The same goes for homeowners because predators can cruise through neighborhoods looking for open Wi-Fi.

McKinnon said due to the volume of pictures and how young the children were in some of them, more charges are likely.

Ashauer is being held on $375,000 bond.

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