Crime

2-year investigation reveals massive stash of child porn at downtown Kennewick business

Accused child porn distributor Daniel Bunch in Benton court

A probable cause hearing for accused child pornography distributor Daniel Bunch, 39, is held via a video link at the Benton County Justice Center in Kennewick. District Court Judge Steve Osborne set bail for $200,000.
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A probable cause hearing for accused child pornography distributor Daniel Bunch, 39, is held via a video link at the Benton County Justice Center in Kennewick. District Court Judge Steve Osborne set bail for $200,000.

A Kennewick businessman accused of using his store’s computer network to access child pornography stopped talking to detectives once he realized the reason for his early morning arrest, documents show.

Daniel J. Bunch, 39, admitted having remote access to three computers at Bunch Finnigan Appliances and said he was the only person with that capability.

But when asked if he’d been online late Wednesday — at the same time that detectives were searching the East Columbia Drive business and noticed activity on a large, mounted monitor — Bunch denied it.

Then, when detectives mentioned a laptop found hidden on top of a store safe, Bunch requested a lawyer, documents said.

Asked for a second time if he knew why detectives had brought him in for questioning, Bunch this time answered, “I do now.”

The interview then ended and Bunch was booked into the Benton County jail on suspicion of two counts each of possessing and dealing in depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

Hard drive filled with child porn

The Kennewick father has been described by investigators as “a big fish in the distribution game of child pornography.”

A 3 terabyte (TB) external hard drive connected to the concealed laptop was 99 percent full of child pornography images and videos and a 10TB external hard drive was 2 percent full, according to documents filed in court Friday.

The storage capacity of a 3TB drive includes about 600,000 digital photos, 1,500 hours of videos or 750,000 4-minute songs.

Bunch is a fourth-generation employee and co-owner of Bunch Finnigan Appliances. He described himself as a sales person at the downtown store, where he’s worked for at least 23 years.

While his expertise is home entertainment and theater systems, both Bunch and his father told investigators that he was the most computer knowledgeable employee, according to documents.

Judge sets bail at $200,000

Bunch appeared Friday in a courtroom inside the Benton County jail.

District Court Judge Steve Osborne found probable cause to continue holding Bunch on the allegations, saying prosecutors must charge him before the end of business Monday or release him from custody.

Bunch two screens
Accused child pornography distributor Daniel Bunch, 39, sits with attorney Eric Scott on Friday via a video link at the Benton County Justice Center in Kennewick. Deputy Prosecutor Laurel Holland, lower right, asks District Court Judge Steve Osborne to set bail at $200,000. Watch a video at: tricityherald.com/video Bob Brawdy Tri-City Herald

Deputy Prosecutor Laurel Holland, in requesting $200,000 bail, described it as a more than 2-year investigation by both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Southeast Regional Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

If Bunch is charged with the felonies and convicted, he “will be looking at a significant amount of prison time,” even with his limited criminal history, she said.

Holland argued that Bunch presents a danger to the public because he has “a high-level acumen in terms of his knowledge of electronics and computers,” which relates to the sophistication with which he allegedly committed the crimes.

Osborne noted that the circumstances surrounding the crime are extremely serious, but initially questioned if $200,000 was too high.

He then said that if Bunch makes bail and continues to work at the family-owned store, it could be problematic so the high amount is appropriate.

Bunch reportedly has access to a large number of guns in his home. He was ordered to surrender them to the Kennewick Police Department if he posts bail.

FBI tracked use to February 2017

Members of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force were tipped off to Bunch’s alleged activity by an FBI agent in Spokane, who had downloaded both images and video files from a then-unknown user on a file-sharing network.

The user had been distributing the child pornography since at least February 2017, court documents said.

A search warrant traced the user’s IP addresses to the electronics and appliance store.

Task force members did surveillance and discovered the store’s Wi-Fi connections were all password protected, which told them the user had to be someone in-house, documents said.

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A detective set an alert to be notified when the user was making the child pornography files available for distribution, and knew the user was active as recently as Wednesday.

Task force members previously had a search warrant for the store approved by a judge, and decided to act on it at 11 p.m. Wednesday.

Suspect solely used work space

No one was in the store at the time, but owner John F. Bunch later showed up after getting a warning that the business alarm was going off, court documents said.

Detectives were processing the office computer area when they noticed someone was remotely accessing one of the main computers.

“A 50-inch monitor that was mounted to the wall showed somebody remotely went from one web page to Facebook, under the Facebook profile of Daniel Bunch,” documents said. The detectives “saw the cursor move on the screen and switch between websites displayed on the large monitor.”

John Bunch said the work space where detectives found the hidden laptop and the hard drives was solely used by his son, Daniel Bunch, court documents said.

An investigator then confirmed that one of the IP addresses was assigned to Daniel Bunch’s work station, documents said.

The task force members got a search warrant for Bunch and his house, and arrested him at 3:26 a.m.

Kristin M. Kraemer covers the judicial system and crime issues for the Tri-City Herald. She has been a journalist for more than 20 years in Washington and California.
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