March 18, 2015

Former Coast Guard Member Sentenced to 50 Years for Producing Child Pornography of Young Girls

GRAND RAPIDS, MI—Eric Devin Masters, 28, of St. Ignace, Michigan, received a 50-year sentence in federal prison for producing child pornography of three young girls, ages 18 months to 12 years old. The judge ordered him to pay $76,640 in restitution for counseling costs to the youngest victim, whom Masters brutally sexually assaulted. Masters pled guilty in federal court in September 2014 to three counts of producing numerous child pornography videos and photographs between May 2012 and August 2013.

Over the course of five years, Masters molested five young girls in five West Michigan counties: Kent, Ionia, Muskegon, Grand Traverse, and Mackinac Counties. Three of the victims’ cases were resolved in this federal case, and the other two were addressed in separate state court charges. Starting in June 2011, when Masters was on active duty with the Coast Guard, Masters began making what he described in e-mails to others as “sleep rape” videos of him molesting young girls as they slept. The following year, in May 2012, Masters violently assaulted an 18-month-old girl in a Grand Rapids hotel room, recorded the abuse on video, and e-mailed the videos out to people in exchange for other child pornography. State charges for the sexual assault are pending in Kent County. Throughout that year and the next, Masters continued to make “sleep rape” videos of young girls, and he also took hidden video of one child exiting the shower, changing clothes in a bedroom, and using the bathroom. Masters was convicted in Ionia County in January 2014 of Criminal Sexual Conduct (Second Degree) for molesting a 17-year-old. While on bond for that offense and awaiting sentencing, he “friended” a 13-year-old in Muskegon County through a fake Facebook account and had sex with her. He pled no contest to Criminal Sexual Conduct (Third Degree) for that offense. His path of destruction came to an end in February 2014 when he was detained on the Ionia County conviction, and he has been detained since that time. The federal case arose out of two separate investigations by the Nashville Police Department in Tennessee and the FBI in Birmingham, Alabama, where child pornographic videos that Masters created were found on computers of other child pornography collectors. Masters admitted that he sent the explicit material to other people in the hopes that they would send him their own child pornography in return.

At the sentencing hearing today, the mothers of two of the victims in the federal case spoke. They emotionally described the pain Masters put them and their children through, as well as the fear and shame the children will live with for the rest of their lives. Masters then addressed the court and said he was “feeding an addiction” that he could not stop. In imposing the 50-year sentence, U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell stated that this was one of the worst scenarios he could think of and one of the worst cases he had ever seen. Judge Bell told Masters, “I am stunned by your lack of understanding of yourself and why you did what you did.” He expressed concern for the lifetime impact on the children and the fact that nothing can stop the images and videos from being distributed around the world through the Internet.

In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles stated, “Thankfully state and federal agencies throughout the nation are working hard and collaborating to address the scourge of child pornography. Through such collaboration they found these horrific child pornography materials in Alabama and Tennessee, identified the perpetrator here in West Michigan, and helped bring Eric Masters to justice in federal court.”

FBIA Special Agent in Charge, Paul Abbate stated, “Today’s sentencing clearly reflects the FBI’s relentless efforts to combat child exploitation in all forms. Defendant Masters’ capture and ultimate sentencing should send the strongest of messages to child predators that the FBI and our law enforcement partners will bring them to justice and hold them accountable under the law.”

The federal investigation was conducted by the FBI and the West Michigan Based Child Exploitation Task Force (WEBCHEX), a collaborative of state and local law enforcement in West Michigan. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tessa K. Hessmiller prosecuted the 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; 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: