South Florida animal vet pleads guilty to child porn charges

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Prentiss Madden, an Aventura veterinarian, pleaded guilty to having child pornography and abusing a dog. – Caring Hands Animal Hospital A South Florida veterinarian pleaded guilty Thursday to not only receiving and possessing thousands of child porn images of male infants and toddlers engaged in sex with adults, but also […]

Prentiss Madden, an Aventura veterinarian, pleaded guilty to having child pornography and abusing a dog.

Prentiss Madden, an Aventura veterinarian, pleaded guilty to having child pornography and abusing a dog.

– Caring Hands Animal Hospital

A South Florida veterinarian pleaded guilty Thursday to not only receiving and possessing thousands of child porn images of male infants and toddlers engaged in sex with adults, but also to making several videos of himself having sex with dogs and sharing them through social media on the internet.

While the federal child pornography charges against Prentiss Madden, 40, are commonplace in South Florida, the additional charge accusing him of creating “animal crush” videos is unprecedented in the U.S. court system in this region.

Madden, the former medical director of Caring Hands Animal Hospital in Aventura, has been held without bond at Miami’s Federal Detention Center since his arrest in mid-March.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Hudock summarized the prosecution’s case against Madden in graphic detail during the defendant’s change of plea hearing before U.S. District Judge Jose Martinez. Madden pleaded guilty to all five charges in his indictment and faces a long prison term at his Oct. 8 sentencing of 20 years or more.

In addition to finding voluminous child porn images on his iPhone, federal agents discovered “videos created by Madden depicting himself engaged in ‘animal crushing’ as well as social media chats discussing [them],” Hudock told the judge. In one example, he said, Madden took a video selfie of himself having sex with a female dog. In another example, he said, Madden produced a video in which he put a “dildo” into another female dog “while he masturbated.”

Hudock argued that Madden’s having sex with dogs and sharing the images over the internet amounted to animal torture under federal law.

Madden, represented by defense attorney Michael Mirer, acknowledged the facts of the prosecution’s case before pleading guilty.

After his arrest in mid-March, the Aventura vet hospital’s website listed him as its medical director. His profile was taken down after news of his arrest broke. At the time, the hospital said in a statement that it fired Madden two weeks earlier after it learned he was under investigation for “these heinous and unthinkable crimes.”

Madden was charged under a federal law that outlaws animal abuse, one that was initially created in 2010 in response to a genre of cruelty in which people video record the harming of animals for the sexual gratification of viewers — known as “animal crushing.”

His case is the first time in South Florida that someone has been charged under that federal law, which was amended under the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump in 2019. It makes the production of animal torture videos punishable by up to seven years in prison.

According to a criminal complaint and affidavit filed with Madden’s arrest, the investigation began when authorities received a cybertip from Dropbox, the file-sharing web service, that a user had received more than 1,600 files of suspected child pornography. Agents traced the files to Madden’s home in the Miami area.

Agents from U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) raided his home on Feb. 24, seizing phones and a computer. According to the complaint, agents found private social-media chats with other users in which Madden was suspected of discussing “the sexual abuse of animals and children.”

In one chat, someone believed to be Madden also bragged about a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old boy from Orlando.

The complaint also alleged that Madden had on his phones multiple photos and videos of images “depicting bestiality,” files that were digitally coded as having been taken at his home.

In his chat, Madden shared the graphic images and admits in detail to having sex with and abusing dogs, according to the criminal complaint. “I was keeping a dog that needed a home,” he allegedly wrote in one chat.

Another explicit video was traced as having been taken at the Helping Hands animal hospital in May 2018. “This leads me to believe that Madden may be abusing animals entrusted to his care,” HSI Agent Leah Ortiz wrote in the complaint.

According to his vet clinic bio, the Alabama native graduated from the Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine.

“Dr. Madden is the proud pet parent of one Shih Tzu, Lucky, and two Burmese pythons, Mocha and Sherbert. In his free time he enjoys traveling, eating, hiking, snorkeling and being an aquarium hobbyist,” the bio said.

He’d also been praised online. “Dr. Madden is incredible and a very empathetic vet. He listens to us and really makes me feel safe when putting my dog’s health in his hands,” one client wrote on Yelp.

But the federal case revealed that Madden was living a secret, depraved life involving an obsession with child porn images of male infants, toddlers and boys engaged in sex with adults as well as participating in sex with dogs himself.

When a magistrate judge denied his bid for bail soon after his arrest, she portrayed him as a dangerous person who would likely flee the area because of the serious charges against him.

“The nature of the charged offenses are very troubling: that the defendant repeatedly harmed very vulnerable populations — children and animals — and did so over the course of years,” said Magistrate Judge Chris McAliley at Madden’s detention hearing in March.

Animal abuse cases are not unusual in South Florida, but they are usually charged in state court.

Among those charged by state prosecutors in recent years: a man who beat his Beagle puppy to death, a teen who lit a caged cat on fire, an Instagram model who kicked her puppy, a man who conducted botched amateur dog surgeries and several accused of hoarding animals in squalid conditions.

Videos depicting the abuse of animals also occupy a dark corner of the internet.

In 2014, the Herald chronicled the life of Adam Redford, a boat captain who became South Florida’s secret purveyor of “crush porn” — X-rated videos featuring women graphically slaughtering chickens, rabbits and hogs. Redford was not charged, and two fetish “models” had their animal cruelty cases dropped because of the statute of limitations.

Miami Herald staff writer David Ovalle contributed to this story.

Jay Weaver writes about bad guys who specialize in con jobs, rip-offs and squirreling away millions. Since joining the Miami Herald in 1999, he’s covered the federal courts nonstop, from Elian’s custody battle to A-Rod’s steroid abuse. He was on the Herald team that won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news in 2001. He and three Herald colleagues were Pulitzer Prize finalists for explanatory reporting in 2019 for a series on gold smuggled from South America to Miami.

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