Manitoba·CBC Investigates

Winnipeg man wanted in Philippines for allegedly paying to watch child sex abuse: search warrant

Marshall Ruskin, 63, a former civilian webmaster for the Department of National Defence in Winnipeg, is alleged to have wired thousands of dollars to dark web operators in the Philippines responsible for the creation of "heinous child sexual abuse videos," including the series "Daisy's Destruction." 

Winnipeg police unable to crack encrypted electronics, stalling case

Marshall Ruskin, 63, is a former civilian webmaster for the Department of National Defence in Winnipeg. According to search warrant documents, investigators allege he paid to watch the sexual abuse of children in the Philippines through the video-conferencing service Skype. (Facebook)

WARNING: This article contains details of abuse.

One of three men wanted in connection with a notorious child sex abuse case in the Philippines is living in Winnipeg, say search warrant documents obtained by CBC News.

Marshall Ruskin, 63, a former civilian webmaster for the Department of National Defence in Winnipeg, is alleged to have wired thousands of dollars to dark web operators in the Philippines responsible for the creation of "heinous child sexual abuse videos," including the series "Daisy's Destruction." 

Police have been in possession of Ruskin's electronic devices since 2019 and are appearing before the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench Tuesday to ask for an extension of time to keep them.

Winnipeg police seized the devices in an August 2019 search of a Garden City home Ruskin shares with his 28-year-old wife.

    In an unproven sworn affidavit filed with the court in order to gain access to Ruskin's electronic devices, investigators allege he paid to watch the sexual abuse of children in the Philippines through the video-conferencing service Skype. 

    Police said they believe he recorded the sexual abuse from his home in Winnipeg, but they haven't been able to get into his devices because they are encrypted and password protected.

    "We all agree that this is an extremely disturbing investigation and Ruskin is a very dangerous offender who is likely continuing to exploit children," Det. Sgt. Esther Schmeider wrote in the 2019 Winnipeg request for a search warrant.

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    According to three arrest warrants issued in the Philippines in October 2016, appended to the court document, Ruskin is wanted for the following offences: 

    • Disposition of prohibited articles.
    • Photo and video voyeurism. 
    • Acts of neglect, abuse, cruelty or exploitation and conditions prejudicial to a child's development.

    Winnipeg police learned of the Philippines investigation in February 2017. Two years later, they raided his Winnipeg home. There are no Canadian charges against Ruskin. 

    Abuse in the Philippines

    The Philippines investigation focused on an Australian named Peter Scully who was arrested in 2015 after a global manhunt and has since become one of the world's most notorious pedophiles.

    Scully created the "Daisy's Destruction" video series, which featured the rape, torture and murder of an 11-year-old girl, as well as sexual abuse of other children, including an 18-month-old child. 

    Scully was convicted of human trafficking and rape in 2018 in a Philippines court after he was found to be the mastermind behind a dark web forum called "No Limits Fun," where the Daisy videos were posted.

    Peter Scully of Australia walks in handcuffs as he arrives at Cagayan de Oro city hall in southern Philippines on Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (The Associated Press)

    Scully's ex-girlfriend, Liezyl Margallo, has also been arrested and charged with helping carry out his sexual crimes against kids. 

    The National Bureau of Investigation, the agency responsible for handling and solving major high-profile cases in the Philippines, spoke to a girl who said in 2012, when she was 11, she went to live with Scully and his then-girlfriend, Margallo. 

    The girl's family was poor and was told the couple would send her to school. The girl said there were two other children living in the home when she moved in.

    The girl alleges she was sexually abused by Scully and Margallo and that other men would pay the couple to sexually abuse her, including a man named Marshall whom she was forced to Skype with, the documents say.

    The girl, who is now in her 20s, agreed to be interviewed by CBC News on a social media video platform but asked that we conceal her identity, as she was living under witness protection until recently.

    She is now married and had a son, but he recently died and her home was badly damaged in a typhoon. She was going to college but said she had to drop out after her government aid ended when she became an adult.

    A recent photo of Cagayan de Oro, a city in the Philippines. Scully was sentenced to life in prison in Cagayan de Oro court for human trafficking and rape. (Reuel Lowe Jumawid)

    She described to CBC News how the abuse would take place.

    "He request that I'm getting nude," she said.

    Even though years have passed, she still has nightmares about the abuse.

    "I always dream that [Peter] will always do the torturing on me that time. And I always dreaming. I cannot forget what they do to me."

    She said men would pay to watch Scully and Margallo abuse her.

    "The wife of Peter Scully, [s]he get the pay. He always send money," said the woman, who alleges she would be beaten if she did not comply.

    Scully is serving a life sentence in the Philippines for human trafficking and child rape and is still awaiting trial for more than 60 other charges.

    A recent photo of Nazareth, a neighbourhood in Cagayan de Oro where Scully and Liezyl Margallo once lived. (Reuel Lowe Jumawid)

    Police in the Philippines say Ruskin is one of three foreign nationals wanted in connection with the Scully investigation. 

    The Manitoba search warrant documents say the NBI interviewed the girl on four separate occasions from 2015 to 2017, and she described the Skype sessions with an American named Marshall.

    She told the NBI they Skyped "numerous times where she would perform sexual acts for him while he masturbated," the search warrant says.

    The girl told police she refers to all white men as American.

    Money wired from Winnipeg to Philippines: search warrant

    In the court documents filed in Manitoba, police say in 2017 the girl was shown a photo pack of 12 Caucasian males and she positively identified Marshall Ruskin as the man she was forced to Skype with.

    The court documents allege Ruskin wired a total of more than $3,000 Cdn in 13 Western Union transfers to Margallo. Police allege the money was for Ruskin to watch the sexual abuse of the 11-year-old girl live on video.

    The money Ruskin is said to have sent works out to nearly 138,000 Philippines pesos — nearly the equivalent of an average annual salary. In 2012, the poverty threshold in the country was 18,935 pesos a year per person.

    The search warrant documents say a sender named Marshall Ruskin with a Winnipeg address transferred the funds through Western Union to Liezyl Margallo from July 11, 2012, to Sept. 20, 2012. 

    Ruskin is alleged to have wired thousands of dollars to dark web operators in the Philippines, according to search warrant documents obtained by CBC News. (Facebook)

    "There is no question what the purpose of these transaction[s] were based on the evidence against Scully and Margallo," Det. Sgt. Schmeider wrote in the 2019 Winnipeg search warrant documents. 

    The affidavit says the Philippines arrest warrants were issued for Ruskin in October 2016, while he was in that country. Court records say he returned to Canada in January 2017. It's not known how he was able to leave undetected.

    Travel records included in the court documents show Ruskin travelled to the Philippines 15 times from April 2013 to April 2016.

    Ruskin's experience and skills as a webmaster mean he has an "unlimited amount of knowledge of computers and the internet, storing, hiding, accessing and keeping files, and how to make it untraceable to him," the police search warrant said.

    Ruskin came to the attention of Philippines law enforcement during their investigation into Scully. (Name withheld)

    In 2019, police argued they need more time with the evidence because the encryption would "require extensive and time-consuming efforts to access the evidence."

    "Winnipeg Police Technical Crimes Unit is slated for further training and software that may assist in accessing the evidence in the near future," Det. Chad Black wrote in a 2019 application to further detain Ruskin's seized devices.

    Winnipeg police had hoped they would find further evidence on the electronic devices they seized in 2019, but they haven't been able to get into them.

    Police have had to apply multiple times since then to continue to hold on to the devices.

    Janet Francisco, chief of the NBI's anti-human trafficking division, told CBC News the matter is still under investigation and they cannot give any details.

    Philippines target for abuse: Australian police

    The Philippines has seen a growth in foreign nationals paying local Filipino operators for the opportunity to watch children be sexually abused live over the internet, said Det. Supt. Andrew Perkins of the Australian Federal Police.

    Perkins, who is stationed in the Philippines, said there are myriad reasons why this sort of abuse occurs in the country.

    "It's a prime target for foreign offenders," Perkins said in a Zoom interview from the Philippines.

    "It's an English-speaking nation. It has saturated levels of internet usage. Poverty is one driver, alongside reliable and easy access to the internet."

    Det. Supt. Andrew Perkins of the Australian Federal Police says foreign nationals paying to watch sexual abuse of children live on the internet is growing. (Submitted by Andrew Perkins)

    Perkins calls it a "convenient crime" for those looking to abuse children.

    "There is no need for them to travel. It can be accessed from almost anywhere," he said. "All that is needed is an internet-enabled device and access to the internet."

    Ruskin is expected to fight for the return of the items in court on Tuesday.

    Ruskin's lawyer hasn't responded to repeated requests for comment.

    Winnipeg police declined to comment on the case because it's before the courts.

    Support is available for anyone who has been sexually assaulted. You can access crisis lines and local support services through this Government of Canada website or the Ending Violence Association of Canada database. ​​If you're in immediate danger or fear for your safety or that of others around you, please call 911.

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Caroline Barghout

    Investigative Reporter, CBC Manitoba I-Team

    Caroline began her career co-hosting an internet radio talk show in Toronto and then worked at various stations in Oshawa, Sudbury and Toronto before landing in Winnipeg in 2007. Since joining CBC Manitoba as a reporter in 2013, she has won an award for her work on crowded jails and her investigation into Tina Fontaine's death led to changes in the child welfare system. Email: caroline.barghout@cbc.ca

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