Ruben Verastigui is the former Republican aide facing a child pornography charge in Washington, D.C. According to the Metropolitan Police Department, Verastigui was arrested on February 5 following a nearly year-long investigation.
Verastigui was working for the Senate Republican Conference when the investigation began, according to his LinkedIn page. He previously worked for the Republican National Committee and his job included designing digital ads for former President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, Verastigui noted on his LinkedIn account.
Court records show a public defender was assigned to represent Verastigui. Heavy reached out to the attorney for comment. We have not yet heard back.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Verastigui Wrote in a Group Chat That He Enjoyed Watching Pornography Involving Babies: Report
Verastigui allegedly said in a group chat that he was into images of *babies* being sexually abused. (CW: disturbing language) pic.twitter.com/Lt17kEyvB0
— Jared Holt (@jaredlholt) February 6, 2021
Heavy is working to obtain a copy of the criminal complaint detailing the case against Verastigui. As of this writing, the complaint had not been made publicly available through the D.C. Superior Court. But according to excerpts shared online, federal investigators found written statements attributed to Verastigui in which he expressed that he enjoyed watching babies being sexually abused.
According to the Daily Beast, Homeland Security agents uncovered a website that at least 18 people were using to share child pornography. Law enforcement has not publicly identified the website because the investigation is ongoing.
Verastigui talked about his desire to watch pornography depicting babies in a group chat, according to the criminal complaint cited by the Daily Beast. In one exchange Verastigui allegedly wrote, “Well like I said babies are some of my biggest turn-ons and beast. Young rape… F*** I love all that.”
Resident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, Jared Holt, first reported the news about Verastigui’s arrest on Twitter. He also shared screenshots that he said were from the criminal complaint. According to one excerpt, Verastigui was sent videos of men sexually abusing babies. Verastigui then allegedly asked the person who sent him the videos to “come to DC for the purpose of sexually abusing a minor.”
2. Verastigui Was the President of an Anti-Abortion Group in College & Spoke at a National March for Life Rally in 2013
Verastigue attended Northwest Vista College in San Antonio from 2011 until 2014, according to his LinkedIn account. During that time, he served as the president of the campus Students for Life organization.
He was identified as such on CSPAN when he spoke at the national March for Life rally in 2013 (although CSPAN misspelled his name on the screen). During his speech, which was also shared on YouTube, Verastigue declared that the younger generation would be the one to “abolish abortion.” He asked the crowd, “How many of us are missing brothers, sisters, cousins, friends, because of abortion? How many people are missing here today… because of abortion?”
His profile on the Students for Life website appears to have been taken down. But the group confirmed with the Washington Post that Verastigue was involved as a student and worked on graphic design for the organization from September 2014 until December 2016. A spokeswoman for Students for Life told the Post that Verastigue did not manage students while working for the group.
Verastigue also noted his apparent commitment to the pro-life movement on his Facebook page. In the “about” section, rather than listing a party affiliation under “political views,” he wrote “Social Justice Begins in the Womb.”
3. Investigators Found Child Pornography on Verastigui’s Phone While Executing a Search Warrant at His Home
Verastigui was arrested at his home in northeast Washington, D.C. on February 5, according to a public incident report Heavy received via email from the Metropolitan Police Department. According to the report, officers with the Northern Virginia Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, which includes Homeland Security agents and D.C. police officers, executed a search warrant at Verastigui’s home. He was present at the time of the search.
The report states that the “defendant was identified as an individual who had distributed child pornography via the use of the internet.” According to the Washington Post, investigators also looked through Verastigui’s cellphone and found “several files of child pornography” as well as a “chat conversation” about sharing the videos. The Post, citing the complaint, reported that Verastigui acknowledged that he had received some of the child pornography files.
The Metropolitan Police Department said Verastigue was charged with one count of Distribution of Child Pornography. Records on the D.C. Superior Court website show a hearing on his case was held on February 6 but it was not clear whether the judge set a bond. Verastigue remained behind bars as of February 7 at the D.C. Central Detention Facility, according to a national inmate database.
4. Verastigui Has Been Fired From His Job
But in light of his arrest, the organization has terminated Verastigui. A spokesperson said in a statement to the Daily Beast, “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.”
5. Verastigui Relocated From Texas in 2017 to Work for the GOP
Verastigui is a native of San Antonia, Texas, the San Antonio Current reported. According to his LinkedIn profile, Verastigui worked as a digital account coordinator in Austin before relocating to Washington, D.C. in May 2017.
He posted about the move on Instagram by sharing a photo of his arm tattoo, which reads, “Nobody need wait.” According to the Washington Post, the criminal complaint mentioned that Verastigui was identified in part because of a tattoo on his left forearm.
Verastigui started working for the Republican National Committee in May 2017. He wrote on LinkedIn that his job included designing political ads for local and national campaigns, producing photos and videos for web campaigns and leading the redesign for vote.gop. He also wrote that he “designed social media creative and digital ads for the Trump Make America Great Again Committee and Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.”
After about a year with the RNC, Verastigui took a job with the Senate. He started as a digital director for the congressional Joint Economic Committee before becoming the senior digital strategist for the Senate Republican Conference. The Post cited a spokesperson who confirmed via email that Verastigue had worked for the Republican Conference. The spokesperson told the Post, “We have just learned about this investigation and arrest. The individual has not worked at SRC since July 2, 2020.”