Day camp counselor arrested on child porn charges

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

A counselor at a Jewish day camp was charged in federal court Thursday with producing child pornography after investigators said he filmed prepubescent boys in a locker room.

Matthew Kuppe faces three charges that include production and possession of child porn.

Jewish Community Center counselor Matthew David Kuppe, 21, of West Bloomfield faces up to 20 years in federal prison if convicted of three child pornography charges, including production and possession.

Kuppe’s arrest left federal agents, prosecutors and West Bloomfield police trying to determine if there are more possible victims.

Kuppe, who worked at the West Bloomfield camp for at least two years, including a stint supervising special-needs campers, made an emotional appearance Thursday in federal court. He was arraigned in front of his parents, who minutes earlier read a copy of a graphic, seven-page criminal complaint listing the allegations against their son.

A disheveled Kuppe mouthed the words “I love you” to his parents after entering federal court Thursday afternoon before closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. He arched an eyebrow as he showed off the handcuffs and kicked out a leg so they could see the ankle chains.

Kuppe, who studied psychology at Michigan State University, is being held without bond pending a hearing Tuesday in federal court.

Prosecutors want time to determine if there are other victims.

“This defendant had access to a large number of children and we would like to conduct interviews and look at evidence,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Woodward said Thursday.

The Jewish Community Center operates camps in West Bloomfield and Oak Park, according to its website. Activities include swimming, chess, soccer, Web design and prayer.

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, center spokesman Michael Layne said in an email Thursday.

“The West Bloomfield Police is investigating the matter and we are cooperating fully with the police in their investigation,” Layne said. “We are communicating with the parents of our program participants.”

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.

Another photo showed a shoe belonging to the photographer.

An undercover officer started trading emails with the user, whose email address is “jcclockerroom@gmail.com,” 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.

The investigation continues into whether Kuppe sexually assaulted any of the boys.

“We have a general idea of how many victims there are, but we want to make sure there’s not more,” said Curt Lawson, deputy West Bloomfield police chief. “It’s not like 50 (victims), but we don’t want to say how many at this point.”

West Bloomfield police will interview campers with help from experts with CARE House, a Pontiac-based group that specializes in child-abuse victims, Lawson added.

“The investigation will determine exactly what happened inside the locker room,” Lawson said.

Homeland Security agents subpoenaed Google and AT&T and traced the Internet Protocol address to Kuppe’s home in West Bloomfield, according to court records.

Agents soon learned Kuppe worked as a camp counselor at Jewish Community Center.

On Wednesday, West Bloomfield police conducted surveillance of Kuppe. He was wearing the same type of shoes depicted in one of the photos, according to court records.

Federal agents raided his home Wednesday. During questioning, Kuppe allegedly admitted using the email “jcclockerroom@gmail.com” and posting nude photos of young boys on the website, according to court records.

Kuppe, according to the records, said he took the photos with his cellphone and received child pornography from other people.

Agents searched his email account “jcclockerroom@gmail. com” and found several emails containing child pornography, according to court records.

rsnell@detroitnews.com

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