The Macon County Sheriff’s Office made two arrests this week after an investigation was launched in the Fall of 2020 involving child pornography allegations in Macon County.
On October 16, 2020, detectives from the Macon County Sheriff’s Office Special Victims Unit received an Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Cyber Tip. The Special Victims Unit, which is also part of the NC State Bureau ICAC Task Force, receives information in reference to crimes of possession, manufacture, and distribution of child pornography. Because of this tip, detectives made contact with the suspect and an investigation began and soon expanded to other states.
On February 4, 2021, Paul Vatalaro, age 56, was arrested at his residence on 129 Gilmer Russell Road in Franklin, NC on four charges of 3rd Degree Sexual Exploitation of a Child.
Vatalaro was found to be in possession of nude photos of prepubescent females on his phone. Vatalaro has several images in his possession. The origins of the photos were not included on the arrest warrant.
Mr. Vatalaro was released the same day after making the bond set by Magistrate Justin Stamey of $100,000.
In addition, on November 16, 2020, Detectives with the Macon County Sheriff’s Office Special Victims Unit received another Cyber Tip from ICAC. The Cyber Tip was in reference to Michael Allen Jones, age 56, of Macon County.
Mr. Jones had worked most of his life in the Information Technology (IT) field. An investigation was initiated by the MCSO. A search warrant was issued and executed at the residence of Mr. Jones on February 9 by the Macon County Sheriff’s Office. Highlands Police Department, ICAC, and Franklin Police Department assisted in this case. Mr. Jones was arrested on three counts of 3rd Degree Sexual Exploitation of a Minor.
According to court records, Jones was in possession of visual representation of “two unknown prepubescent caucasian female children,” completely nude. He was also in possession of visual representation of a female between the ages of 13-16 who was sitting on the bed nude. Both images were from an online website. Jones was in possession of additional similar photographs as well.
He is currently being held on a $200,000 bond.
“Our investigators immediately followed up on tips and were able to conduct interviews and secure enough digital evidence that showed Mr. Vatalaro & Mr. Jones to be involved with child pornography,” said Macon County Sheriff Robert Holland. “These two cases were not related & were separate investigations but serve as a great example of the importance of our agencies working together to protect & serve our community which includes the youngest of its members.”
These investigations are ongoing and additional charges will be forthcoming.