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Underage Model Photographer Gary Smith Arrested
by LAJ

Those who frequent the Yahoo! clubs and chat rooms for underage model websites may recognize the name "SirSpiffy", a.k.a. photographer Gary Smith, 35, who was arrested at his home in Chicago by the Cook County (Illinois) Sheriff's Department last Friday on an Arkansas arrest warrant (but as of this writing he has not officially been charged with any crime). Previously arrested in Arkansas for violating a previous plea agreement in 1997 over a sexual incident with his 15 year-old babysitter, Smith had pled guilty and registered for five years as a sex offender in the state of Illinois upon his move there, to avoid jail time, but still maintains the opportunity to work with models of any age. His mug shot can be found here:

An undisclosed source tells YNOT News that Smith posted $5,000 bond after being held in custody overnight, and since he is still a registered sex offender, much of his computer equipment, videos and disks were confiscated during the arrest. There were a few adult models present at Smith's house last Friday when his arrest and the subsequent raid took place, and everyone was allegedly held for questioning for several hours before they were released. According to a model present at the time of arrest, after Smith bonded out, "he seemed like he was going to leave Chicago for an undetermined amount of time." But as of this writing, regardless of locations, it would appear that Smith is still active in the teen model community as he is regularly posting on the Yahoo! clubs chat boards.

Smith got his start in the Internet as a programmer in the mid-90s before making the foray into photography. He also ran adult sites for models over 18. He later would go on to start several underage model sites that feature scantily clad girls between the ages of 11 and 17. These sites are based on the adult paysite business model: he started the sites himself with his own money and splits the profits with the models.

Models over the age of 18 often stay with Smith at his house at his invitation when they travel to Chicago for photo shoots, but according to one source who knows Smith, "He got into this business to meet and lay women, and has made unwanted advances on some of the models. I wouldn't do business with him, and I warn others who ask me about him. All models of all ages should do some kind of a background check on anybody that they work with anyway."

"Even if some of these underage models or their parents didn't know about Smith's history, what I don't understand is how any parent would sign off on a release on this kind of stuff for their kid… it's scary what so many of these parents will allow" another source wishing to remain anonymous stated. They added "The FBI had been notified as early as a year ago about Smith's practices on the Internet, and that he had made advances on models, and even though he 'appeared' to be operating legally to them, it took the authorities until now to actually check into it."

It is undetermined how much income some of the underage models make from their sites, but four figures a month, are not out of the question. Even with model site saturation being what it is on the Internet nowadays, five figures a month is still possible in extreme cases. One often wonders who these types of sites are aimed after. "Lonely pedophiles looking to get off, and probably stalkers looking to find a 'date' online," offers one veteran Adult Webmaster. Adds another "A lot of the perverts who run these sites are just like the perverts who surf them and sign up for memberships. This is their sick way to reassure each other that it's OK to lust after underage girls. For some crazy reason, the law says it's OK to run sites likes these even though we all know why they really exist."

With teen and amateur websites arguably being two of the hottest and best selling niches on the market, it is no wonder that underage teen model websites and clubs are getting a lot of traffic. Webmasters like Gary Smith realized this early on, enabling him to leave his regular job in web design and programming in Arkansas (and his divorced wife) to pursue photography full time in Chicago, and no doubt meet the kind of women that would not pay any attention to him under different circumstances.

Trouble has found him though in both of his lifestyles.

Representatives for various teen models and Smith himself would not return emails for this story.

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Undercover Investigations Examines 'Selling Innocence'

CHICAGO, Nov. 7, 2001 - Young girls hoping to become rich and famous in the world of modeling have found themselves working with a convicted felon. In Wednesday's special report "Selling Innocence", our Unit 5 investigative team goes undercover to expose a Chicago area modeling studio whose owner is now the subject a national criminal probe. Some of these girls have ended up in the new booming world of child erotica, where they put themselves in the public spotlight by posing for almost nude photo's, allegedly with parental permission.

Those behind the industry said it is all perfectly legal, but what we uncovered has led to a police raid and a criminal investigation. The Unit 5 investigative team exposed allegations of child exploitation, pornography and sexual abuse against Gary Smith, a self proclaimed high roller in the teen modeling industry. On the surface, his photo business appears completely legitimate, but we found there's an underside.

From kids posing on busy Chicago streets to more revealing shots taken at a secret photo studio, Smith is cashing in big. Smith is part of the booming Internet industry of child erotica. He sells their pictures and videos on his website, where prosecutors said he is selling to a select market that includes pedophiles. "I think it's obscene," said Dan Stewart, prosecutor for Sebastian County, Ark. "You're dealing with individuals who are preying upon children."

A 14-year-old model said she made a thousand dollars in her first week and told us she doesn't want to think about who is paying to see her pose. "It?s just something you don't think about because that just ruins your fun," said Adrienne. Unit 5 went undercover into a Halloween party staged by Smith. At the party, he allowed website customers to meet 16, 15, even 14-year-old girls in person.

We also revealed his photo studio at a northside Chicago home. It is an operation with annual revenues in the millions according to police sources, who are now investigating Smith after what we uncovered. Gary Smith is also a convicted child molester.

We've learned a nationwide criminal investigation is underway and the secrets behind Gary smith's operation are about to unfold.

-------------INTERNET WORLD OF CHILD EROTICA---------------

How could a convicted child molester open a child-modeling studio in a Chicago neighborhood? It is a question for both local and federal authorities, who are on the trail of the man behind the operation, Gary Smith. Smith is a 35-year-old computer specialist who's wanted by police in Ark. He was convicted in 1998 of sexually assaulting a man's 15-year old daughter.

"He had her pinned against the side of the car, trying to take her clothes off and kissing on her," said Bill Lincks, the father of the sexually assaulted teen. Smith was ordered to get counseling in an agreement to avoid prison. "I have gone through several counseling sessions ? about a dozen," said Smith. But prosecutors in Arkansas said he?s in violation of his sentencing agreement and could get ten years in prison.

They're also stunned to learn what we found out about Smith's business. A Unit 5 surveillance video shows young girls going to his home where he takes their pictures. They even meet him at hotel rooms. Smith said parents approve of what he's doing.

And Unit 5 found he even sells tickets to website customers, who can meet the girls in person and take custom photos at parties. Authorities believe many of the photos are crossing the line. "I believe this violates the Ark. statue of child pornography," said Ark. prosecutor Dan Stewart.

He issued a new warrant for Smith's arrest. "I think that it's absolutely horrible and something needs to be done about it," Stewart said. Something is being done. We've learned Smith is the subject of an FBI investigation. "I?ve been under investigation by the FBI for four or five months now," said Smith.

Law enforcement sources close to the Smith case told Unit 5, the FBI has information about a 12-year-old girl who Smith allegedly forced to pose nude in a Missouri hotel room earlier this year. The pictures are part of an alleged secret collection called the "Golden Pictures". "It makes me sick to my stomach that someone like Gary Smith is still preying and profiting from something that?s as serious as he's doing," said Bill Lincks.

Smith wants to send a message to police and FBI agents investigating him. He said everything he does is perfectly legal. Five days after a Unit 5 interview with Smith, the Cook County sheriff's police raided Gary?s home.

Police said there were $200,000 worth of computer equipment inside and they seized it, along with thousands of computer discs and videos. Police even found spotlights over some of the beds and drugs in one of the rooms.

Smith was arrested on his Ark. warrant and sent to the Cook County jail. As for his arrest on the violation of his plea agreement, Smith posted bond and is free until the governor signs a warrant to send him back to Ark. That could take up to 90 days.

The Cook County sheriff's police are examining all of his files they confiscated and said "their investigation into Mr. Smith and his business activities is continuing and expanding in scope." Smith denied the drugs found in the house are his.

We've also learned five people have been arrested on pornography charges stemming from other teen modeling websites. According to U.S. Dept. of Justice sources, three people were indicted in Missouri, including the parents of a girl who we've learned once appeared on Smith?s website.

Federal officials said their investigation is continuing. The money is so big, parents are setting up websites like Smith's all over the country, selling images of their own kids on line.

In the days and weeks to come, we'll have the results of a joint investigation we conducted with the investigative team from our sister station in Miami.



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