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Press Release

Harrison Township Pilot Sentenced To 2 Years In Prison For Assaulting Girl During Flying Lesson

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

DETROIT – A Harrison Township resident was sentenced to 24 months in federal prison for abusive sexual contact with a child, United States Attorney Dawn N. Ison announced.

Ison was joined in the announcement by Cheyvoryea Gibson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan.

Rex Phelps, 72, of Harrison Township, pleaded guilty on October 26, 2023 to Abusive Sexual Contact of a Child before United States District Judge Stephen J. Murphy, III, who also sentenced Phelps to 24 months in prison, the maximum sentence permitted by law.

While providing flying lessons to a 15-year-old girl, Phelps groomed and inappropriately touched the victim on several occasions. Phelps also exchanged text messages, including one with a picture of a man and a woman lying on a bed kissing. Phelps commented on the picture, “Shortly after the shower … without that top.  Maybe more.” Phelps’s abuse of the minor was only uncovered after he mistakenly sent this text message exchange to an unintended recipient, and that recipient contacted police.

“This sentence reaffirms our office’s commitment to protecting the most innocent and vulnerable members of our community – children,” U.S. Attorney Ison said. “This defendant violated the trust that so many had placed in him, including the victim’s parents.”

“Teachers and instructors are supposed to protect our youth while they progress in their learning environments, and it is utterly shameful that this individual took advantage of this young girl,” said Cheyvoryea Gibson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan. “The FBI and its partners remain committed to holding these criminals accountable for exploiting the innocent.”

This case was investigated by special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tara Hindelang.

Updated March 18, 2024

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