Feds: Ex-camp counselor posted photos of boys, ID of at least 1
Detroit — A former Jewish Community Center camp counselor posted on a Russian website locker room photos of naked 5-year-old campers and identified at least one alleged victim by his real name, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Fired counselor Matthew Kuppe, 21, of West Bloomfield Township, allegedly took photos of three boys during a camp sleepover this month. He posted photos on an unnamed website in a folder titled “Jewish Boys” and used the pictures to convince Internet users to send him more child pornography, a federal prosecutor said.
The evidence emerged during a lengthy hearing in federal court that ended with U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Stafford ordering Kuppe held without bond pending trial, arguing he is a danger to the community.
Kuppe, 21, faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted of three child pornography charges, including possession.
“This is every parent’s worst nightmare,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Woodward said. “You send them to camp, believing they are safe.”
Kuppe’s lawyer said he would appeal the bond refusal.
The hearing featured contrasting images of Kuppe, who sat impassively in court, dressed in an orange jailhouse jumpsuit and wearing leg chains and handcuffs, which clanked loudly as he sat down in court. He twice mouthed “I love you” to his parents, who sat in the gallery, a row ahead of parents of one of the alleged victims.
The hearing came less than one week after Kuppe was arrested following a child porn investigation involving agents from the Department of Homeland Security.
Meanwhile, an investigation continues into whether Kuppe sexually assaulted any children. As of Tuesday, no children have told investigators they were assaulted by the counselor.
There was no visible reaction from Kuppe, who worked at the camp in West Bloomfield Township for at least two years and studied psychology at Michigan State University, including a stint supervising special-needs campers.
The parents of one alleged victim attended the hearing in federal court. The mother wiped away tears as the prosecutor described photos posted on the website.
Kuppe, who cleared a criminal background check before being hired as a counselor, worked primarily with fifth-, sixth- and seventh-graders. He was immediately fired after Jewish Community Center officials learned about his arrest.
The investigation started this month after a Homeland Security agent got a tip about photos of young boys being posted on a foreign website. A user with the name “jcclockerroom” posted numerous photos of young boys in a locker room setting.
“The photographs depicted the prepubescent boys’ genitalia,” a Homeland Security agent wrote in court records.
An undercover officer started trading emails with the user, whose email address is “firstname.lastname@example.org,” and asked about one of the boys in the photos.
“I only get to touch him a few times,” the user “jcclockerroom” wrote in one email, adding that he bounced the naked boy on his lap.
“I also purposely dropped something, and made him pick it up,” he added. “I have more pics, but you need to send some first. ... What would you do to these little boys (be graphic).”
The emails included graphic descriptions of sex acts involving at least one of the boys.
Kuppe’s lawyer Walter Piszczatowski said the emails were mere fantasy. He also suggested the photos were “child erotica” and not child porn.
He cited Kuppe’s accomplishments in high school and as a loving son in requesting bond.
“He’s your typical A+, better-than-average kid that you want to live next door to,” Piszczatowski said.
He urged the judge to release Kuppe to his parents’ custody at their home in West Bloomfield Township. Piszczatowski also suggested his client be placed on an electronic tether and that all devices with Internet access be removed from the home.
The judge denied the request, saying offenders in other cases have managed to access the Internet despite restrictions. She also said the family’s home is near a school.