GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — Mark Totten, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, announced that on Tuesday Virgil Chandler Knowles III, 47, of Vicksburg, Michigan was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the sexual exploitation of children and distribution of child pornography. U.S. District Judge Robert J. Jonker also ordered Knowles to spend 10 years on supervised release after his confinement.
“My office is committed to protecting our most vulnerable and holding predators accountable for sexually exploiting our children,” said U.S. Attorney Mark Totten. “As soon as an undercover officer identified Mr. Knowles in a secret pedophile chat group, law enforcement moved swiftly to arrest him. To anyone exploiting children the message is clear: We know how to find you and we will hold you accountable.”
“Predators who create child pornography victimize children twice – first by sexually assaulting them and again by sharing it with others on the Internet,” said James A. Tarasca, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan. “The message sent at sentencing should be clear: Protecting our children from predators is a top priority for the FBI and law enforcement agencies everywhere. We are committed to identifying those who exploit children and bringing them to justice.”
The investigation and prosecution of Mr. Knowles was made possible through Project Safe Childhood (PSC), a multi-agency, nationwide effort begun by the Department of Justice in 2006. The project facilitates information sharing and joint-agency investigations among local, state, and federal authorities in order to combat the sexual exploitation of children. In this case, a local Task Force Officer based near Washington D.C. was the first to identify Knowles as a likely producer of child pornography. The investigator was able to relay the information he uncovered in near real-time using Project Safe Childhood communication channels. This allowed members of the FBI who were stationed near Knowles to develop the investigation further and identify Knowles’s precise location. A prosecutor assigned to the Western District of Michigan’s PSC response team was able to work with the FBI and obtain local search and arrest warrants for Knowles within hours of receiving intelligence from agency partners.