A former digital strategist for the Senate Republican Conference, who also worked for pro-life groups and designed social media ads for Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, has been charged with distributing child pornography.
D.C. Metropolitan Police arrested Ruben A. Verastigui on Friday after an investigation revealed he allegedly “distributed, received, and possessed images of child pornography” between March 2020 and February 2021. Jared Holt, resident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, first reported Verastigui’s arrest on Twitter.
Verastigui, who posted a photo of himself at the White House just two months ago, worked for the Senate Republican Conference until July 2020, according to his LinkedIn. The investigation into his alleged offenses took place while he was still working for the GOP.
He had been working as a communications manager for a non-profit called Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions until Saturday. A spokesperson for the non-profit said: “The details of the allegations against Mr. Verastigui are tragic and shocking. He is no longer employed by the organization and we are prepared to fully cooperate with law enforcement requests in this matter to any extent needed.”
The Daily Beast was unable to reach Verastigui and a family member didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Court documents obtained by The Daily Beast say that Homeland Security special agents came across Verastigui while looking into a group of at least 18 people who were trading child porn on a website that remains unnamed “to protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation.”
In a group chat on the site, Verastigui went by the username “Landon” and the handle @somethingtaken, according to investigators.
The court documents detail a very disturbing chat on the site in which Verastigui told another user that “babies” were his “absolute favorite.”
“Well like I said babies are some of my biggest turn-ons and beast,” Verastigui wrote in the direct message, per court documents. “Young rape… Fuck I love all that.”
Verastigui sent further messages about wanting to view “hardcore” videos however The Daily Beast has withheld them due to their graphic nature.
When he was sent a video file showing an adult sexually penetrating a child, he replied “FUCK YES!!!”
According to the criminal complaint, Verastigui asked another member of the group to come to D.C. “for the purpose of sexually abusing a minor.” During another discussion, he was sent and viewed a video depicting the rape of an infant.
The court documents also allege Verastigui sent naked photos of himself to the group chat. Those photos were taken in his kitchen, and the court documents note that a tattoo of words written in script can be seen on Verastigui’s left arm.
An Instagram photo Verastigui posted of himself leaning on the Speaker’s Balcony of the U.S. Capitol in 2019 shows the script tattoo. During a search warrant execution on Friday, Verastigui admitted to being active on the child porn site, the court documents say.
Verastigui’s LinkedIn says he worked for the Republican National Committee from 2017 to 2018, which included working on social media ads for the Trump Make America Great Again Committee and Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.
As Holt originally noted, Verastigui has worked for several anti-abortion groups including March for Life, Students for Life America, Live Action and Susan B Anthony list. A YouTube video from 2013 shows that he spoke at the National March for Life in 2013.
“How many of us are missing brothers, sisters, cousins, friends, because of abortion?” Verastigui asked the crowd, pledging that they would be the generation to “abolish abortion.”