LOS ANGELES – A former Redondo Beach resident today is being held without bond on federal child sexual exploitation charges after prosecutors described in court how he targeted girls on the internet and enticed them to engage in masochistic abuse for his sexual gratification.
Matthew Christian Locher, 31, was ordered detained Tuesday afternoon during an arraignment in United States District Court. During that arraignment, Locher pleaded not guilty to an eight-count indictment that charges him with sexual exploitation and attempted sexual exploitation of a child for the purpose of producing a sexually explicit visual depiction, enticement and attempted enticement of a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity, and receipt of child pornography.
According to court documents and statements made in court, Locher targeted girls suffering from mental health issues, including depression, suicidal thoughts, and anorexia. During internet conversations, Locher allegedly groomed his victims to engage in self-mutilation and, eventually, to become his “slave” or “pet.”
As alleged in the indictment, Locher enticed two of the minor victims to send Locher images of themselves committing acts of self-harm, which included cutting their breasts. With one of the victims identified in the indictment, Locher allegedly used racial epithets to devalue the victim and entice her to self-mutilate.
Locher allegedly enticed a third victim, who was 12, to run away from her home in Ohio and travel to California to engage in illegal sexual activity with Locher. This victim began a trip to California after setting a fire in her family’s home – an unsuccessful attempt to kill her parents in a plot Locher encouraged, prosecutors said in court Tuesday.
Locher – who used various screen names, including “The Hat,” “MattheHat,” “HeyThere,” and “Shark” – was arrested on January 10 in Indianapolis. Locher relocated to Indiana last summer soon after federal authorities executed a search warrant at his residence. Following his arrest, federal authorities transported Locher to California, and he made his first court appearance here Tuesday.
According to a search warrant in this case that was unsealed after his arrest last month, Locher “enticed, encouraged, and instructed the victims to produce child pornography and child sexual abuse material in the form of sexually explicit images and video recordings of themselves to send to Locher over the internet, including through the use of Discord,” a voice and text chat platform.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
If convicted, Locher would face up to life in federal prison, and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment, for each of four counts of enticement and attempted enticement of a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity. The three counts of sexual exploitation and attempted sexual exploitation of a child in the indictment each carry a maximum statutory penalty of 30 years in federal prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment. The remaining charge of receipt of child pornography carries a potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison.
At the arraignment on Tuesday, Locher was ordered to stand trial on April 19.
The FBI is investigating this matter.
Assistant United States Attorney Chelsea Norell of the Violent and Organized Crime Section is prosecuting this case.