GRAND RAPIDS — A Wexford County man is facing a grand jury indictment in United States District Court Western District of Michigan after it was alleged he produced, distributed and received child pornography.
Jordan C. Wheeler a.k.a. Jay Smith had three charges brought against him stemming from incidents occurring in September in Wexford County. The first offense was the production of child pornography. The indictment alleged Wheeler knowingly employed, used, persuaded, induced, enticed, and coerced a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct to produce visual depictions of that conduct.
The indictment also alleged Wheeler used a 6-year-old to engage in sexually explicit conduct and took videos and photographs of that conduct, which he had reason to know would be transmitted through the internet.
The second offense in the indictment against Wheeler alleged he distributed child pornography using a means or facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including a computer. Specifically, Wheeler allegedly sent videos and photographs of child pornography through the internet.
The final offense alleged Wheeler received child pornography using a means or facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including a computer. Specifically, Wheeler allegedly received videos and photographs of child pornography through the internet.
The charges in question are only accusations. Wheeler is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law. The prosecution has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The FBI was in Cadillac in late October regarding this investigation, but FBI Detroit Public Affairs Officer Special Agent Mara Schneider could only confirm agents were in Cadillac conducting “a law enforcement action.‘ Schneider also said Wheeler is currently detained and awaiting trial.
The Cadillac News contacted Anne Townes, media relations for the United States Attorney’s Office, Western District of Michigan, seeking information about this case.
Townes said she couldn’t provide any additional details other than what was in the indictment. This included clarification about whether the victim was a local child or from out of the area.
Wexford County Sheriff Trent Taylor said in October the FBI contacted his detective bureau asking for assistance in executing a search warrant. Taylor said he assisted the FBI by providing a marked car, uniformed deputy, and two detectives for perimeter security.
“We were not involved in the investigation, the search of the residence or taking the suspect into custody,‘ he said.
This type of criminal activity, however, appears to be on the rise.
Government investigators who uncover child exploitation initiated more than 4,000 cases around the world in the 2019 budget year, resulting in thousands of arrests and the identification of more than 1,000 victims, according to data obtained by The Associated Press.
The caseloads are growing because of the ease with which offenders can post graphic images of children online.
“With the dark web on there, the content is becoming more prevalent and more horrific,‘ said Matt Wright, the chief for the Child Exploitation Investigations Unit at Homeland Security Investigations.
HSI is a division of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement tasked with investigations, not immigration enforcement. Agents work on investigations involving money, drug smuggling or child sex trafficking.
“While we are within ICE, our primary function is as criminal investigators,‘ said Joanna Ip, assistant director of the agency’s cyberdivision, which oversees the unit working on combating child exploitation. “We do criminal investigations with customs and immigration authorities — anything that comes in and out of the border.‘
The numbers from Oct. 1, 2018, to this past Sept. 30 are higher overall than for the previous few years, according to the data, even as HSI’s parent, the Department of Homeland Security, remains focused on immigration enforcement.
Agents and investigators initiated 4,224 child exploitation cases that resulted in 3,771 arrests and identification of 1,066 victims.
The previous two budget years each saw about 4,000 investigations but lower arrests and fewer victims identified, according to the data.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.