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Charges shock nudist resort

Girl sexually assaulted by ex-member, police say

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A former member of a Manitoba nudist resort accused of running one of the largest child pornography rings in Canada has been hit with new charges of sexually assaulting a pre-teen girl who frequented the facility.

Members of Crocus Grove Nudist Resort are reeling after police identified the first local victim in the pedophile operation and warned there could be more victims.

The new charges against Bryan Larsen, 41, were disclosed by police yesterday.

The scandal at Crocus Grove has prompted the membership to consider tightening security at the Libau-area site to include mandatory criminal record checks, restrictions on cameras and possibly turning the summer getaway into an adults-only facility.

"The poor girl, her poor family. That's awful," resort spokesman Bob Migliore said yesterday after being informed of the sexual assault charges.

Larsen was the former photographer at the nudist resort, which has about 140 members. He was arrested in December after police seized up to 500,000 pictures and videos of child pornography from a Wellington Avenue apartment.

The collection, which is still being gathered by police computer experts, is one of the largest ever seen in Canada, according to Winnipeg police sources.

The images were allegedly posted on eight different Web sites operated from a Wellington Avenue apartment.

Police also seized a camera, binoculars and 40 pairs of young girls' panties from the suite. They say they believe some of the pornographic images involve Winnipeg victims.

Police say some of the children may have been recruited from the nudist resort.

Migliore has been flooded with phone calls in recent weeks from parents who initially thought their children were safe, but now fear the worst.

"Most people thought the children at the camp were always under the care and supervision of an adult," he said, adding they now realize that adult could have been Larsen.

"There may have been some people who used him as a monitor for their children when they went to get a bite to eat or play a game," said Migliore.

Police say the alleged sexual assault victim, who had attended the nudist resort with her parents, was molested between 1998 and 2000.

Larsen is charged with sexual assault and sexual interference for alleged incidents of touching and fondling while the girl was naked at the resort, according to police.

She was also photographed nude, and police say they are investigating whether to lay additional charges against Larsen of making child pornography.

They are continuing to search for other potential victims.

Larsen has been in custody at the Remand Centre since his arrest on the child pornography charges almost two months ago.

Police would say yesterday only that the alleged sexual assaults on the girl were uncovered as a "direct result" of their ongoing investigation.

"We wanted to get this charge before the courts sooner rather than later. There may be more forthcoming," said Sgt. Boyd Campbell of the sex crimes unit, noting police are still "tearing apart" the computer they seized and are trying to identify children in the images.

Larsen was expelled from the nudist colony in late December after news of his arrest was published in the Free Press.

As well as being resident photographer at the resort, Larsen served as the Manitoba director of the Western Canadian Association for Nude Recreation and also assembled the resort's newsletter, including a column for children titled Ask Uncle Bryan.

Members of the resort say their annual meeting in May will be used to discuss the case and recommend changes to prevent sexual offences.

Some suggestions include having mandatory criminal record checks for all new members, allowing only one camera on the premises for newsletter and promotional purposes, reviewing all pictures that are taken, and possibly making the resort an adults-only facility, said Migliore.

Several members also met police and the Crown recently to discuss the case and ways they can prevent future incidents.

The alleged pedophile enterprise was uncovered through what Canadian law enforcement officials are calling Project Snowball, part of an international effort to crack down on Internet child pornography.

The highly secretive operation involves officers from municipal police and RCMP searching the World Wide Web for child porn and those who produce, possess and distribute it.

Defence lawyer Chris Sigurdson said yesterday Larsen denies the sexual assault allegations, but isn't planning on applying for bail anytime soon.

Sigurdson is planning to file a Court of Queen's Bench motion seeking to have the police search warrants unsealed so he can view what evidence they had to get a judge to allow them to search Larsen's suite and bank records.

"It's very unusual to get a search warrant sealed. Usually it's only done in cases of organized crime," said Sigurdson.

Larsen is being held in a protective unit at the Remand Centre for his own safety, according to justice sources.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 7, 2002 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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