(JTA) — A counselor at a JCC day camp in suburban Detroit was charged with producing child pornography after allegedly filming prepubescent boys in the JCC locker room and sharing the photos online.
Matthew David Kuppe, 21, of West Bloomfield, Michigan, was arraigned in federal court Thursday and charged with production, distribution, receipt and possession of child pornography, the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press reported.
If convicted, the rising senior at Michigan State University faces up to 20 years in federal prison. He is being held without bond pending a hearing Tuesday in federal court. Prosecutors are trying to determine if there are additional 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, according to the Detroit News.
Kuppe, who used the handle “jcclockerroom” to post several photos of the naked boys on a foreign website, worked at the JCC of Metropolitan Detroit’s day camp for two years and at one point supervised its special-needs campers. Under questioning, he allegedly admitted to posting nude photos of the boys on the website and using the jcclockerroom email account, which contained several emails with child pornography.
Michael Layne, spokesman for the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit, said in a statement to the Free Press that the JCC was notified on Wednesday that a summer camp counselor was being investigated by West Bloomfield Police.
“Subsequently, we were notified that the individual had been taken into custody for alleged possession of photographs of campers taken while using the locker room and restroom facilities,” Layne said in a statement. “The staff member was immediately terminated. In accordance with our policies, the individual was subject to a criminal background investigation that came back clear prior to his employment.
The statement said the JCC was “cooperating fully” with the police investigation.
“We are communicating with the parents of our program participants,” Layne said.
A JCC email to parents obtained by JTA said Kuppe, who the email did not identify by name, had in his possession photographs of three JCC campers and that “the affected families have been contacted by the authorities.” The email said Kuppe was not only dismissed but “banned from JCC properties.”
The email, from CEO James Issner and board president Brian Siegel, also noted that it had “received no complaints” about Kuppe prior to his arrest.
The investigation started earlier this month after a Homeland Security agent learned of the “jcclockerroom” photos, which “depicted the prepubescent boys’ genitalia,” according to court records.
In an email exchange with an undercover agent, “firstname.lastname@example.org” wrote, “I only get to touch him a few times,” before giving graphic descriptions of the boy and adding, “I have more pics, but you need to send me some first … What would you do to these little boys (be graphic.)”
According to court papers cited by the Free Press, Kuppe described how he sexually abused the boy as he was changing out of his clothes and that he planned to give the young boy oral sex.
“I also purposely dropped something, and made him pick it up,” he said.
Investigators are trying to determine whether Kuppe in fact 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,” Curt Lawson, the deputy chief of the West Bloomfield Police, told the Detroit News. “It’s not like 50 (victims), but we don’t want to say how many at this point.”
Homeland Security agents traced the gmail account’s IP address to Kuppe’s home, which they raided Wednesday.
The Free Press reported that Kuppe’s attorney, Michael Rex, could not be reached for comment.
According to Kuppe’s Facebook profile, he is a psychology student at Michigan State University.