Michigan Man Pleads Guilty to Traveling to West Virginia to Engage in Illicit Sexual Conduct with a Minor
|U.S. Attorney’s Office October 29, 2012|
HUNTINGTON, WV—U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin announced today that a Michigan man pleaded guilty in federal court to traveling in interstate commerce with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor. Ashlee C. Liebert, 33, of Whitmore Lake, Michigan, admitted that for approximately five months, beginning in November 2011 through March 2012, he established a relationship with a 12-year-old minor residing in Putnam County, West Virginia. Liebert admitted that he communicated with the minor by e-mail and cellphone where they had conversations that were sexual in nature. Liebert further admitted that he exchanged sexually explicit images with the minor.
U.S. Attorney Goodwin said, “Crimes that involve the exploitation of children are sickening.” Goodwin continued, “These types of cases are without question a top priority for my office and we will continue to work hard to ensure that the perpetrators of these despicable crimes get dealt with harshly.”
On March 10, 2012, Liebert traveled from Michigan to Putnam County, West Virginia to meet the minor. Liebert admitted that while traveling from Michigan to Putnam County, West Virginia, he communicated via cellphone with the minor and expressed his desire to engage in illicit sexual conduct. Liebert admitted that after arriving in Putnam County, West Virginia, he picked the minor up and drove to a location and engaged in illicit sexual conduct with her. Law enforcement officers from the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department discovered Liebert and the minor in his vehicle that was parked on the side of the road near Cross Creek Road, in Buffalo, West Virginia. Law enforcement officers obtained a search warrant for Liebert’s vehicle. During the search, officers found various items including directions to Buffalo (West Virginia), vodka, and a bag of candy.
On March 11, 2012, a Michigan state search warrant was executed at the Liebert’s Whitmore Lake residence in Michigan. During the search officers seized several computers. A forensic interview of Liebert’s computers revealed more than 600 images and videos of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, that is, actual or simulated sexual intercourse and the lascivious exhibition of the genitals and pubic area of the minors. Many of the images and videos have been identified as known children. In addition, many of the images and videos depict prepubescent minors and at least one image portrays a prepubescent minor depicted in sadistic or masochistic conduct and other depictions of violence. Liebert further admitted that the images and videos he possessed were downloaded using the Internet, and the images had been shipped and transported in interstate commerce by computer.
Liebert faces up to 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced on February 11, 2013 by United States District Judge Robert C. Chambers.
The Putnam County Sheriff’s Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Northfield Michigan Township Police Department conducted the investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Lisa Johnston is in charge of the prosecution.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit http://www.justice.gov/usao/wvs/PSCpage.html. For more information about Internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc and follow the “Resources” link.