Former Youth Minister Receives 18-Year Sentence for Federal Child Pornography Conviction
ALBUQUERQUE -- United States Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales announced that, this afternoon in Albuquerque federal court, Matthew Nichols, 62, was sentenced to an 18-year term of imprisonment to be followed by a lifetime of supervised release based on his conviction for distributing and attempting to distribute child pornography. After he completes his prison sentence, Nichols will be required to register as a sex offender. Nichols also was ordered to pay a $10,000.00 fine.
Nichols, a resident of Los Alamos, New Mexico, was employed as a youth minister at Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church in Los Alamos when he indicted on child pornography charges on June 22, 2010. The six-count indictment charged Nichols with two counts of distribution and attempted distribution of child pornography, one count of possession of child pornography, and three counts of possession of child pornography. On October 15, 2010, Nichols entered a guilty plea to Count 2 of the indictment under a plea agreement with the United States Attorney's Office, and admitted distributing and attempting to distribute a video depicting a minor boy engaged in sexually explicit conduct with an adult male.
Court records reflect that Immigration and Customs Enforcement of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (ICE) initiated the investigation that led to Nichols’ arrest after the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office (NMAGO) received a cyber-tip in September 2009 from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children indicating that a certain IP Address was being used to distribute child pornography. Investigation revealed that the IP Address was subscribed to the Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church in Los Alamos, where Nichols was then employed. Further investigation revealed that an IP Address subscribed to Nichols at his residential address also was being used to distribute child pornography.
On December 29, 2009, agents and investigators with ICE, the NMAGO, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Computer Analysis Response Team (CART) executed search warrants at the Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church and Nichols’ residence and recovered computers and computer-related media containing visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Forensic examinations of the computers and computer-related media uncovered 1465 images and 186 videos of known child pornography as identified by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Nichols, who previously had been convicted of corruption of minors and criminal solicitation (to commit involuntary deviant sexual intercourse) in Pennsylvania, has been in custody since his arrest on June 23, 2010. The Court dismissed the remaining counts of the indictment against Nichols after imposing its sentence.
The case was investigated by ICE, NMAGO, FBI and CART, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Charlyn E. Rees. It was brought as 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, 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, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
The case also was brought as part of the New Mexico Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force’s (ICAC Task Force) mission to locate, track, and capture Internet child sexual predators and Internet child pornographers in New Mexico. There are 61 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies associated with the ICAC Task Force, which is funded by a grant administered by the NMAGO. Anyone with information relating to suspected child predators and suspected child abuse is encouraged to contact federal or local law enforcement.