PHOENIX – A man who used Facebook to lure and sexually exploit underage victims will spend 24 years in prison and will not be eligible for early release under any circumstances. Michael Dean Ross (D.O.B. 7/24/1970) pled guilty to charges stemming from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) which uncovered his online communications with children and his efforts to obtain sexually explicit material from them. His sentence, imposed by the Honorable Pamela Svoboda, also requires Ross to be placed on lifetime probation and register as a sex offender following his release.
“This case underscores the determination of my office and our law enforcement partners at the Department of Homeland Security to ferret out child predators on the internet and hold them accountable for the serious and lasting harm they cause to the most innocent members of our community,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “We will continue to be vigilant in our efforts to combat these online offenses and to seek the harshest penalties available for these criminals,” he added.
“During the course of this investigation, HSI special agents discovered that Mr. Ross participated in a ‘list serv’ with more than 200 email subscribers involved in the distribution of child pornography,” said Lon Weigand, acting deputy special agent in charge of HSI Phoenix. “To date, investigative leads stemming from this case have resulted in at least 17 domestic and international enforcement actions and the identification of at least eight sexually exploited child victims. HSI will use every available resource to rescue these victims and arrest these predators.”
HSI began investigating Ross in November, 2011 after discovering he was posting sexually charged comments on a website that contained images of child erotica. Further investigation and a subsequent search warrant uncovered numerous images in his possession depicting the sexual exploitation of minors. During internet conversations with others, the defendant referred to one of the victims depicted in the images as his daughter and talked about sexual acts he fantasized about doing with her.
Ross was also found to be communicating with teenage victims through a Facebook page he created where he posed as a 25-year-old successful businessman who was new to town and looking to make friends. With this fake identity, Ross (then 41) “friended” a 14-year-old online and began initiating inappropriate sexual conversations with her despite her telling him multiple times that she was only 14. At one point, Ross showed up at the victim’s school with flowers and other gifts for her, including a cell phone intended to facilitate continued communications. He also sent her graphic images of his genitalia and manipulated her into sending him photographs of hers.
On November 15, 2012, a Maricopa Grand Jury delivered an indictment charging Ross with multiple counts of voyeurism, sexual exploitation of a minor and attempted sexual exploitation of a minor. A warrant was issued for his arrest and he was taken into custody several days later. He subsequently waived his right to a trial and pled guilty to four of the counts.
ADDITIONAL MEDIA CONTACT: Amber Cargile, Spokesperson, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement: firstname.lastname@example.org (602) 200-2220.