News and Press Releases

Wahpeton Man Sentenced on Federal Child Pornography Charges

April 12, 2012

FARGO - U.S. Attorney Timothy Q. Purdon announced that on April 12, 2012, Benjamin Joseph Hager of Wahpeton, N.D., was sentenced before U.S. District Judge Ralph R. Erickson on charges of possession of materials involving the sexual exploitation of minors and receipt of materials involving the sexual exploitation of minors. Hager pleaded guilty to the charges on Oct. 19, 2011.

U.S. Attorney Timothy Q. Purdon said, “The sentence in this case is a testament to the effectiveness of the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Childhood Program. The Project Safe Childhood program ensures that offenders like defendant Hager, who troll the internet for worst sort of images of the victimization of children, will face serious time in federal prison.”

Judge Erickson sentenced Hager to 10 years’ imprisonment to be followed by a lifetime of supervised release. Hager was ordered to pay a $200 special assessment to the Crime Victim's Fund.

On July 6, 2010, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents executed a search warrant at Robert John Mueller’s residence in Sterling Heights, Michigan. Mueller was suspected of having produced child pornography and distributing such material to others. During this search, agents located a lockbox which contained a pair of prepubescent female underwear with a note attached indicating that it came from an individual who identified himself as “Ace.”

HSI special agents obtained a second search warrant for Mueller’s email account which revealed a series of email exchanges between Mueller and the individual identifying himself as “Ace.” These email exchanges revealed that Mueller and “Ace” shared a sexual interest in children as well as sexually suggestive images of children. Further investigation revealed that the email account utilized by “Ace” was registered to Benjamin Hager, residing at 716 Sixth Street South, Apartment 7, in Wahpeton, N.D. On Nov. 24, 2010, special agents obtained a search warrant for Hager’s residence in Wahpeton where they seized 747 VHS tapes. During the execution of the search warrant Hager was interviewed and told agents that he met Mueller in a chat forum dedicated to “older guys that liked younger girls.” A later review of the tapes revealed numerous images of children engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Klemetsrud Puhl prosecuted the case.

This case was brought as a part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.
For more information about Project Safe Childhood, visit




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