Louisville man pleads guilty to violating federal child exploitation law
LOUISVILLE - A Louisville man pleaded guilty last week to charges he violated the federal child exploitation law in 2007.
Thirty-four-year-old Benjamin Wilmes pleaded guilty on January 6, 2012 before senior U.S. District Judge Thomas B. Russell to a charge of attempting to transfer obscene materials to a minor.
The charges against Wilmes are the result of a sting operation in Bowling Green in 2007 conducted by Perverted Justice, a public watchdog group, which resulted in an investigation by the Attorney General’s office and its former Kentucky Bureau of Investigations, now the Department of Criminal Investigations (DCI). Prosecution of this case is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District.
According to the plea agreement, Wilmes admitted that from his Louisville home, beginning on or about July 8, 2007, he engaged in online communications with a person he believed to be a 13-year-old girl living in Lawrenceburg, Ky. The teen was actually an adult working with the group Perverted Justice. He also admitted that on September 23, 2007 he used a web cam to transmit obscene live streaming video of himself.
Wilmes faces a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and supervised release for a period of three years. His sentencing is scheduled for April 16, 2012 at 2:00 p.m. before Judge Russell in Louisville.
The case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May of 2006 by the Department of Justice.
In June of 2008, Attorney General Conway streamlined priority operations within his office and launched a Cybercrimes Unit devoted solely to investigating crimes that occur online. To date, the unit has launched more than 230 child pornography investigations and seized more than 300,000 child pornographic images and videos from the Internet. The unit is also a member of the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force.