Crime

Grifter faces 76 more child-porn charges

Prosecutors have tacked an additional 76 counts of possessing child pornography on a California man who's been in county lockup since 2013, initially on a misdemeanor arrest for having a false ID.

The case of Robert Pearl, 42, is a road-trip story involving complicated cross-state swindles, theft and now child porn.

He and his now-ex-wife, Tamara Asada, were arrested three years ago by Monroe County Sheriff's Office deputies for using bogus identities to secure manager jobs at Gilbert's Resort in Key Largo. That's where they ended up after being chased out of several states by authorities and victims of Pearl's flimflams.

Asada, 43, pleaded guilty to possessing a fake license and was released from county jail in October 2013 after time served. It's not clear where she is now, but she said last year that she, too, fell for Pearl's lies and did not knowingly participate in any of his cons.

When their real identities were revealed shortly after deputies arrested them, it turned out the couple was wanted in several states, mostly for credit-card fraud.

In May 2013, photos of underage children engaging in sexual acts were found on the work computer Gilbert's gave Pearl, police say. He has been sitting in a Stock Island jail cell ever since awaiting trial on 15 child-porn counts.

The additional charges filed Thursday are likely because more images surfaced, but State Attorney Catherine Vogel would not comment on the case. And the County Clerk's Office would not release an arrest warrant deputies served Pearl in jail this week because it contains the names of minors.

Several former business partners describe Pearl as a cunning con man and gifted swindler who devised elaborate schemes that fooled even the shrewdest of investors.

For instance, in 2009 Pearl nearly convinced officials in three North Carolina counties that he represented a Botswana gem manufacturing company looking to open a facility in that state.

The officials never gave Pearl money but for several weeks, they wooed him with meals and travel hoping the "company" would choose their counties to open the facility. The scheme almost worked until one official discovered Pearl and Asada were wanted on credit-card fraud charges in California.

Despite fooling Gilbert's owners by using a false identity to get a job, Pearl was not looking at serious time until the porn images were found. He was basically facing the same punishment as a minor possessing a fake ID.

Before Keys cops nabbed him, Pearl was arrested five times between 1993 and 2009 in California, North Carolina and Ohio. He still has an outstanding warrant in California, where he is accused of burglary, grand theft and credit-card fraud.

Pearl also faces federal charges in Indiana for allegedly swindling investors who thought he had ties to Apple Computers. Pearl allegedly ran several other elaborate scams across the country before he and Asada ended up in Key Largo.

Pearl is on at least his third set of attorneys since being arrested. Last week, Miami defense firm Ratzan and Faccidomo took his case. He had been represented by Keys attorneys Jiulio Margali and Jessica Reilly.

  Comments