A former TV news producer was arrested by federal law enforcement last week on charges of distributing more than 100 videos and images of child pornography in an online chat room.
According to a criminal complaint obtained by The Desk, former KNBC-TV (Channel 4) producer Phil Drechsler, 60, distributed more than 117 videos, 9 images and 3 others types of files that depicted child pornography between August 2020 and June 2021.
Writing in the complaint, FBI Special Agent Chelsea Malone said Drechsler used the alias “Karen Flores” to interact with other people in a group chat connected to a smartphone app (The Desk is not naming the group or the app in question).
Malone didn’t say how the FBI linked Drechsler to the child pornography group. Earlier this month, federal law enforcement executed a search warrant on his Southern California home, where they seized an Apple iPhone that contained evidence linking him to the group, Malone affirmed.
At one point, agents interviewed Drechsler, who claimed he wasn’t sure if the images purportedly on his phone were illegal.
“Drechsler stated that he could not tell the age of the individuals and did not think it was child pornography,” Malone wrote in an affidavit attached to the criminal complaint. “I asked him if the individuals looked like adults or children, and Drechsler confirmed that they looked like children.”
An arrest warrant was issued for Drechsler after police learned last week that he was driving to Ohio to say goodbye to his daughter. The tip came from an interview with Drechsler’s wife, who told law enforcement that Drechsler was traveling with three firearms, at least one of which was registered to him.
Police arrested Dreschler in Ohio last week, and a judge ordered him to be extradited to Southern California to face charges in the case.
Drechsler was employed by KNBC for more than 11 years, where he worked as an investigative producer, according to a copy of his resume reviewed by The Desk. In a social media post, Drechsler said he was laid off from the station in February after being offered a buyout. His job loss was one of many affecting NBC’s broadcast and cable employees that month.
Prior to joining KNBC, Drechsler worked as an investigative producer and photographer for WCPO (Channel 9), the ABC affiliate in Cincinnati.
Drechsler is the latest name to appear on a growing list of journalists who have been arrested on child sex crime charges over the last few years. In February, former ABC News journalist James Gordon Meek was arrested on suspicion of downloading and distributing child pornography after a lengthy FBI investigation into his alleged activities. Meek was formally indicted on the charges earlier this month.
In 2019, Ars Technica reporter Peter Bright was arrested during an FBI sting following an investigation into attempted child sex trafficking. He was convicted the following year and was sentenced to 144 months in federal prison.