Investigators searching the home of a 46-year-old Georgia man were shocked to discover a mass collection of more than 50,000 videos and photos; all of which contained child pornography. The images were stored on thumb drives, external hard drives and laptops. Even more disturbing for investigators was finding 56 8-mm cassette tapes hidden away in a nightstand that had been turned around in an attempt to conceal its doors, which depicted Matthew John Coniglio molesting and raping girls and young women who appeared to have been drugged into unconsciousness. The FBI is now actively seeking any victims who may appear on the tapes.
Coniglio, a traveling salesman for a Florida-based food distribution company, whose trips took him through North and South Carolina as well as Georgia, makes no attempt to conceal his own identity on the tapes, and often addresses the camera directly.
Special Agent William Kirkconnell with the FBI has seen the tapes and relates to The Associated Press that all of the girls appearing on the tapes are unconscious, leading investigators to believe that the girls were drugged. Some of them are so debilitated that they are snoring. All of the girls remain asleep throughout the molestations and are never awake while being filmed. It is believed that the youngest girl shown could be as young as eight years old, but the number of girls in total will be difficult if not impossible to determine due to the fact that their faces are not clear on the tapes. What is known is that each of the 56 tapes contained at least one, if not more, assaults that appear to be occurring in various hotels and homes.
The FBI spoke exclusively with AP in an attempt to draw out more victims, who will be in need of mental help. Unfortunately, authorities will not be able to offer justice to the untold numbers of victims of Coniglio, who hanged himself in jail in what is believed to be a suicide attempt on April 20, just 10 days after being arrested.
Coniglio was the subject of an investigation in South Carolina in 2005 resulting from an incident with an 11-year-old girl in Hilton head, S.C., where he was working as a salesperson. Under the guise of heading a modeling agency, he approached the girl’s mother and asked if he could take modeling photos of her daughter. After arranging to meet the parents of the pre-teen in a parking lot when the photos were complete, Coniglio drove her to a prepared hotel room that had been outfitted with cameras. He gave the girl a soda and asked her to lay on the bed. At some point, the 11-year-old, feeling uncomfortable, asked Coniglio to take her back to her father. She never claimed to have been molested, and believed herself to have been in the hotel room for less than an hour. Her parents, however, told authorities that she had been with Coniglio for several hours. They phoned the police after the young girl came home upset and locked herself in a closet in her bedroom.
Coniglio voluntarily spoke with police, telling them that the 11-year-old had been his business’ first-ever model. He could not produce any photos and said that he had not taken any, but offered an apology to the mother of the girl because he admitted that it “look [ed] bad.” The sheriff’s deputy who interviewed Coniglio asked him straight out if he was a pedophile – a claim he denied. Coniglio was never charged in the 2005 incident.
Coniglio was however arrested at least twice for incidents involving alcohol, to which he admitted imbibing heavily each day. It appears that he began filming the assaults just before or after he was arrested in 2000 for driving drunk. The videos were discovered as the result of an online child pornography investigation in which Georgia police identified him as a suspect and searched his home, located on Ryans Way in Pooler, Ga. Although he was charged and booked into a Savannah jail on Apr 10 as a result of the discovery, authorities were denied the opportunity to hold him accountable for his crimes.
More importantly, the suicide of Coniglio makes the search for his victims extremely difficult. With a history of more than a decade of drugging and raping young girls, some of the girls may now be adults who, because they had been drugged, are unaware that they were molested by Coniglio. In an effort to find as many as they can, the FBI has released a confidential questionnaire on the FBI.gov website that can be used by victims or anyone with information regarding the attacks. In addition, the FBI has posted a phone number and email address which can be used to contact investigators.
By Jennifer Pfalz