By RYAN OLSON
SACRAMENTO — A Paradise man who was working for Butte County Superior Court has been arrested on federal child pornography charges.
Bret Allan Nichols, 29, made an initial appearance in federal court Tuesday on three counts, including producing child pornography, possessing it, and receiving and distributing it, according to online records for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.
Magistrate Judge Carolyn K. Delaney set a Dec. 17 preliminary hearing.
According to the criminal complaint submitted by federal special agent Randy Richardson, the defendant allegedly watched, directed and recorded several live online video sex chats involving pre-pubescent girls.
The complaint also included Richardson’s affidavit outlining the probable cause to seek an arrest warrant.
A Nov. 14 search of Nichols’ computer at his Buschmann Road residence reportedly uncovered videos involving those girls. There were also videos where the defendant allegedly used a concealed camera to capture images up women’s skirts at the Butte County Superior Court and several stores in the Butte County area, including Walmart.
The report indicates Nichols told investigators he worked at the courthouse. Court salary records posted by MercuryNews.com show he was employed as an office assistant in 2009, the most recent year available.
The investigation cited in the complaint centered on incidents involving a Florida mother and daughter. Officials estimated the girl was 4 or 5 years old in a video posted in November 2012.
Danish National Police discovered the video and referred it to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in December 2012.
Investigation into the video led to officers contacting the mother on Dec. 19, 2012, in Mary Esther, Fla. east of Pensacola. She said she modeled on a webcam modeling site where at least four individuals requested she perform sex acts with children.
Further investigation showed Nichols allegedly used an email address “email@example.com,” created under an alias in October 2011, to make payments to the women’s online payment accounts.
The woman reportedly told agents that person with the online names “naughtybad42” and “moogle.phin” would make payments of up to $200 to watch her and her husband have sex with their daughter.
Nichols, a 2003 graduate of Paradise High School, reportedly lived at his mother’s residence on Buschmann Road. Investigation and election records indicate the defendant’s mother is Donna Nichols, a longtime member of the Paradise Unified School District board of trustees.
Online payment records reportedly showed the “naughtybad42” account was allegedly created by the defendant on Oct. 30, 2011, and referred to the Buschmann Road residence.
In March 2013, Comcast Cable Communications indicated the Internet address allegedly used by Nichols was connected to an account belonging to Donna Nichols.
While the defendant appeared to reside in Paradise, a Butte County District Attorney’s Office investigator told the federal agent that Nichols was also known to live with his girlfriend in Marysville.
Agent Richardson interviewed the defendant at the time of the search. After waiving his Miranda right to remain silent, Richardson said Nichols indicated he recognized the Florida woman and her child, but didn’t recognize any other alleged minor victims.
The defendant reportedly said the woman offered “live incest shows,” which he didn’t ask for. He allegedly requested the woman and the daughter to play and bathe together and perform oral sex on each other, the report says.
Nichols confirmed participating in several online chats with the mother while the alleged sexual molestation took place, according to the complaint. He also reportedly acknowledged making payments to the woman.
The defendant told agents he recorded four to six videos involving the mother and daughter, and converted them into different formats, the complaint says. He also allegedly recorded sex shows involving a minor child in the Philippines and another in Columbia.
When asked, Nichols reportedly said there were about 50 additional videos involving child pornography, some downloaded through an online network designed for anonymity.
In the defendant’s room, investigators discovered a report filed with the court detailing a forensic interview with a child allegedly molested by the child’s father. According to the affidavit, Nichols said he used his position in the courthouse to locate and remove the report.
The defendant is currently in custody at Sacramento County Main Jail. A bail review hearing was set for Tuesday.
Reach Ryan Olson at 896-7763 or firstname.lastname@example.org.