Former Radio Host John Balyo Pleads Guilty To Federal Child Exploitation Charges
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN – Former local radio host John Richard Balyo, of Grand Rapids, pled guilty in federal court today to producing and possessing child pornography. As a result of his plea, Balyo faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison, up to a maximum of 50 years and must register as a sex offender. U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell will determine the final sentence and the amount owed in restitution at a later hearing. His plea agreement requires his full cooperation in other federal, state, or county investigations. He also agreed to forfeit computers, photographic equipment, the contents of a storage unit, and material used to sexually abuse or exploit children.
John Balyo met up with another adult and a 12-year-old boy in Kalamazoo on April 19, 2014. Balyo rented a hotel room where he took sexually explicit photographs of the boy, including some involving bondage with the child in handcuffs. Balyo engaged in sexual conduct with the child and took photographs on both his cell phone and a camera. At the end, Balyo paid the child cash and left. He possessed these images and others on various devices, including a computer. Balyo was arrested by Calhoun County on June 20, 2014, where he still faces charges for criminal sexual conduct. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Michigan State Police executed a search warrant at Balyo’s residence that same day and later searched a storage unit where they found additional material relating to child abuse and sexual exploitation. HSI and MSP later discovered that Balyo had concealed his computer and other belongings with an acquaintance shortly before his arrest. After seeing the news reports, that person turned over the property to police. The computer contained multiple photographs of child pornography, including the ones from the Kalamazoo hotel room on April 19.
“Individuals who prey upon children and create sexually graphic images will be found, and they will be prosecuted. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in West Michigan and our state and federal partners are dedicated to the protection of children. These child predators should know that taking a single illegal picture exploiting a child means at least 15 years in a federal prison. They could also forfeit the computers, cameras, and even the houses that are used to sexually exploit children. We are committed to securing restitution for the victims to pay for the cost of medical care, counseling, and potential loss of income,” said U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles, Jr.
“Child pornography creates a permanent record of a child being sexually exploited,” said Marlon Miller, special agent in charge of HSI Detroit. “These children are continually victimized every time those images are transmitted, downloaded, shared, or viewed. HSI will continue to work closely with the U.S. Attorney's Office and other law enforcement agencies to protect our children and aggressively pursue child predators.”
The investigation was conducted by HSI, in cooperation with the Michigan State Police ICAC, Battle Creek Police Department, Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety, and Kent County Sheriff’s Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tessa K. Hessmiller is prosecuting the federal case.
This case is part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from exploitation and abuse. The U.S. Attorney's Office; county prosecutor's offices; the Michigan State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC); the West Michigan Based Child Exploitation Task Force (WEBCHEX); and federal, state, and local law enforcement are working closely together to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children. Individuals with information or concerns about possible child exploitation should contact local law enforcement. For more information about Project Safe Childhood in West Michigan, including resources for children and parents, visit: http://www.justice.gov/usao/miw/programs/psc.html.