The Eighth Federal Conviction in West Michigan for WEBCHEX, a West Michigan-Based Child Exploitation Task Force
GRAND RAPIDS, MI - September 17, 2015 - Timothy Masters, 32, of Belding, Michigan, was sentenced to 27 years in federal prison for producing child pornography, announced U.S. Attorney Patrick A. Miles, Jr. He is the second Masters brother convicted and sentenced this year in federal court, and his case marks the eighth federal conviction and sentence in west Michigan for the task force that investigated the case.
The brothers were active collectors of child pornography and regularly e-mailed back and forth about their sexual interest in children. They escalated their criminal conduct to sexual assaults and produced their own child pornography that they shared with each other. Timothy Masters bragged to his brother that he groped several girls he knew, ages 10-14, during trips to an amusement park and in the girls’ homes. He took pornographic pictures of one of the girls while she slept. He was a friend of the family and was invited into the home. That child wrote a statement that her mother read tearfully at the sentencing hearing. The victim described how she has panic attacks in places that remind her of Timothy Masters and continues to experience significant emotional pain and fear.
Timothy’s brother, Eric Masters, 28, pled guilty in federal court last year to producing child pornography of three other young girls, including the graphic sexual abuse of a toddler that is now the subject of Kent County criminal sexual conduct charges. He was sentenced in federal court in March 2015 to 50 years in prison. If he is convicted on the pending state criminal sexual conduct charges, the Kent County judge will determine whether the state and federal sentences will be served concurrently or consecutively.
In announcing the sentence, U.S. Judge Paul L. Maloney stated, “To say this is despicable is an understatement.” He noted that the sentences in child exploitation cases are “high for a reason because these victims have to live with this forever,” and “many never fully recover.” Judge Maloney recognized that Timothy Masters had no other criminal history, which “is not atypical in these cases.” “The defendant has got some deep, deep recesses,” the judge continued, and during the long sentence, Timothy Masters can try to help mental health professionals “in understanding how he got to this point.”
Timothy Masters was the eighth federal offender convicted and sentenced in west Michigan based on investigations led by a local task force called WEBCHEX, which stands for West Michigan Based Child Exploitation Task Force. WEBCHEX, launched in late 2013 under the leadership of the FBI in Grand Rapids, is staffed by officers and detectives from each of the following:
- Michigan State Police;
- Allegan County Sheriff’s Office;
- Ionia County Sheriff’s Office;
- Kent County Sheriff’s Department;
- Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office; and
- Grand Rapids Police Department.
Other law enforcement entities have also worked closely with WEBCHEX, including the Michigan State Police Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, the Kentwood Police Department, Holland Police Department, Muskegon County Sheriff’s Office, Muskegon Police Department, Walker Police Department, Wyoming Police Department, and. And WEBCHEX has facilitated collaboration with out-of-state law enforcement agencies from Colorado to Georgia. By working hand-in-hand with other law enforcement agencies and entities outside the Task Force, WEBCHEX enhances the collective law enforcement effort for everything from interviewing victims and executing residential search warrants to conducting computer forensic exams.
The Task Force is just one of the law enforcement entities that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan works with to investigate and prosecute crimes against children. Other partner agencies for the U.S. Attorney’s Office include Homeland Security Investigations; the Michigan State Police ICAC Task Force; and other federal, state, and local law enforcement offices around the country.
In the eight WEBCHEX cases sentenced federally so far in the Western District of Michigan, the sentences range from 15 to 50 years, with an average of 26 years. A total of 11 child sexual abuse victims have been rescued in these cases alone. The cases include convictions for production and possession of child pornography, online coercion and enticement of a minor, and child sex trafficking. In addition to the Masters brothers, other defendants brought to justice through WEBCHEX investigations include: Joseph Arpin, who traveled from California to Allegan County to have sex with a 12-year-old he met online; Gary Hampton, who molested and photographed a teenage boy in his home in Grand Rapids; and Eddie Jackson, who sex trafficked three Muskegon teens in Grand Rapids.
WEBCHEX investigations also led to charges in 17 additional cases in multiple state courts and other federal districts. For example, in the case against Clint Williamson from 2014 to 2015, the Task Force discovered that Williamson sent live video feed of a child’s sexual abuse to a couple in Georgia. Through the Task Force’s collaboration with state and federal authorities in Atlanta, the state of Georgia convicted the woman of child molestation, and a federal court in the Northern District of Georgia convicted the man for downloading thousands of images of child pornography. The woman received a sentence of life plus 10 years, and the man received a sentence of just over eight years.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles applauded the Task Force, calling it “a force multiplier for rescuing child victims and protecting other children all over west Michigan from being victimized. The hard work of the Task Force and the generosity of the participating agencies make our community that much safer.”
Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Detroit Division, John R. Shoup, said, “The whole purpose of the WEBCHEX Task Force is to protect children from sexual exploitation, abduction and trafficking, so to see this collaborative effort producing results in such a short amount of time is really gratifying, and lets us know that we are on the right track.”
“Victimized children are voiceless and often find themselves in hopeless situations,” stated Sergeant Chad McKersie and Sergeant Terry Dixon of the Grand Rapids Police Department. “We need to continue to break the silence to protect our children and rid our society of these awful predators. WEBCHEX’s work is the thundering roar of action on their behalf holding perpetrators accountable and providing hope to the silenced victims.”
For Detective First Lieutenant Mike Anderson, Michigan State Police 6th District Special Investigation Commander, “There is no higher calling for law enforcement than protecting our children. The Michigan State Police is excited to be part of the Task Force that has brought justice for eleven children thus far.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan works closely with the WEBCHEX Task Force, among other agencies, as part of the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Childhood program. Federal, state, and local collaboration on these crimes is a priority for the U.S. Attorney’s Office to ensure the broadest reach and the highest level of effectiveness in protecting children. For more information about Project Safe Childhood in West Michigan, visit: http://www.justice.gov/usao/miw/programs/psc.html.
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Michigan
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