Judge Sentences Reading Man in Child Pornography Case
ALLENTOWN—Cori Merklinger, 24, of Reading, PA, was sentenced today to 27.5 years in prison for conspiracy to produce child pornography, three counts of production of child pornography, and one count of distribution of child pornography. In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Court Judge James Knoll Gardner ordered 15 years of supervised release, a $500 special assessment, and $2300 in restitution.
Merklinger was initially identified through an undercover operation as a distributor of videos of young children being sexually assaulted by adults. A search of his cellular phone led to the discovery of text messages with his then-19-year old girlfriend, Ambur Ham, also charged. Via text messaging, Merklinger directed Ham to take sexually explicit photos of the 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old children she was babysitting. Text messages revealed that Merklinger repeatedly asked Ham to take photographs of the three minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct. Merklinger went so far as to coach the children on speaker phone to engage in sexual conduct. He pleaded guilty on November 27, 2013. Ham had also pleaded guilty and was sentenced on July 2, 2015 to 20 years in prison, 15 years of supervised release, $2,300 restitution, and a $400 special assessment.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
The case was investigated by the FBI, the Berks County Detectives and the Chester County Detectives, with assistance from the Berks County District Attorney’s Office and the Chester County District Attorney’s Office. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michelle L. Morgan.