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Press Release

Former Catholic Priest Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison for Production and Distribution of Child Pornography

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Delaware

WILMINGTON, Del. – A former U.S. Navy Lt. Commander and ordained Catholic priest was sentenced to 30 years in prison today for charges involving the sexual exploitation of children, announced U.S. Attorney Charles M. Oberly III of the District of Delaware.

John Thomas Matthew Lee, 51, of Millsboro, Delaware, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Leonard P. Stark of the District of Delaware, who also ordered Lee to serve a lifetime term of supervised release. On Nov. 16, 2015, Lee pleaded guilty to one count of production of child pornography and one count of distribution of child pornography. He became a registered sex offender following his 2007 conviction in a general court martial of sexually assaulting another Naval officer while serving as a Chaplain at the U.S. Naval Academy. Lee has been in custody since his arrest on Nov. 3, 2014.

According to admissions made in connection with the plea agreement, following a series of CyberTipline reports from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) special agents connected Lee with accounts that were being used to upload images of child pornography to several social networking sites. In executing a search warrant at Lee’s Millsboro residence, agents found tens of thousands of child-pornography images on several of Lee’s electronic devices, including his phone. Using online messenger applications and text messages from his cellular phone, Lee also induced several juveniles to send him pornographic images of themselves. Lee uploaded at least one of these images to a publicly-accessible social media site. He also traded other images of child pornography online with other adults.

HSI Resident in Charge Wilmington, Delaware investigated the case with assistance from several other HSI regional offices in locating and interviewing the juvenile victims. The Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) and Assistant U.S. Attorney Edmond Falgowski of the District of Delaware prosecuted the case.

This 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 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and 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, please visit


Updated February 13, 2017