The stories about Sam are almost unbelievable. He’s wealthy, successful, and a family man. But look closer and you’ll discover a deeply disturbed predator with a dangerous habit of victimizing kids. When Detective Robert and his team take over the case, they find themselves crossing state lines and international borders in the pursuit of evidence which ultimately confirms Sam is exactly what they thought he was: the very worst. WARNING: This episode deals with the sexual abuse of children.
The Detective: Detective Robert has been in law enforcement for over 20 years. Prior to becoming a detective, he spent nine years on patrol, where he served as a Field Training Officer (FTO) and an FBI-trained hostage negotiator. As a detective, he worked in a unit that investigated crimes against children, including sex crimes, serious physical abuse and child homicides. He was later re-assigned to the violent crimes unit, where he investigated homicides, robberies and other serious felonies. He was an active member of his county’s major crimes team, which investigated homicides and officer-involved shootings. After 10 years in investigations, Robert has been promoted to sergeant, where he currently supervises a graveyard patrol shift.Read Transcript
Yeardley: [00:00:00] Please be warned that this episode is about child sexual abuse and sexual tourism. And while we do not dwell on the graphicness of the crimes committed, we wanted to give you a heads-up about the disturbing nature of this case, and let you know that listener discretion is advised.
Robert: Nancy sees a lot of children going in and out of one of the hotel rooms. So, she goes down to this rooms and looks inside, and what she finds is Sam playing strip poker with many younger boys, just a room full of young boys. And basically, by talking to them, she learns that Sam has paid all of them to come up to this hotel room, and they’re all in various stages of undress, some of them naked.
Yeardley: [00:00:49] Hi, there. I’m Yeardley.
Dan: [00:00:51] I’m Dan.
Dave: [00:00:52] And I’m Dave.
Yeardley: [00:00:53] And this is Small Town Dicks.
Dan: [00:00:56] Dave and I are identical twins, and we’re retired detectives from Small Town, USA.
Dave: [00:01:00] Together, we’ve investigated thousands of cases. From petty theft to sex crimes, from child abuse to murder.
Dan: [00:01:07] Every case on our podcast is told by the detective who investigated it, offering a rare personal account of how they broke the case.
Dave: [00:01:14] Names, places, and certain details, including relationships, have been altered to protect the privacy of the victims and their families.
Dan: [00:01:21] And although we’re aware that some of our listeners may be familiar with these cases, we ask you to please join us in continuing to protect the true identities of those involved, out of respect for what they’ve been through.
Unison: [00:01:32] Thank you.[Small Town Dicks theme playing]
Yeardley: [00:01:41] Today, on Small Town Dicks, we have the usual suspects. We have Detective Dan.
Dan: [00:01:47] Hello, everyone.
Yeardley: [00:01:48] [chuckles] Hello, you. And we have Detective Dave.
Dave: [00:01:51] I am happy to be back.
Yeardley: [00:01:53] We are always happy to have you. And Small Town Fam, we are so excited because we have one of our favorite returning guests, Detective Robert, who you may recall, over the course of many seasons, has given us cases like Trouble Follows, What About Bob?, Kill Bill. Robert’s one of our [unintelligible 00:02:16]. Robert, thank you so much for joining us today.
Robert: [00:02:17] I am just tickled to be back. Thank you.
Yeardley: [00:02:19] This is amazing. And also, it needs to be mentioned that you’re giving us one of your very precious days off, and we’re deeply grateful for that too.
Robert: [00:02:28] Oh. Well, happy to do it.
Yeardley: [00:02:29] So, Robert, you’re a pro at this. I’m just going to hand it over to you and tell us how this case came to you.
Robert: [00:02:34] All right. Well, first of all, everyone, thank you for letting us talk about this particular case, because I know it is not the listeners’ favorite topic, but I think this one’s important to talk about. My goal today is to talk about the worst and most prolific child serial offender that I’ve worked. Basically, just by going over the case, I’m hoping that the listeners will be better prepared to protect children, whether they’re their own or children in the community. But I just want to tell a story about a case I worked several years ago with my team about a guy named Sam. And I’m going to go back, I guess, 24 years to accurately tell the story and kind of lead up to when me and my team got involved. And, of course, I do want to point out this was definitely a team effort. I don’t think there was a detective on my child abuse team who didn’t help with this. And then as the story goes on, you’ll hear how we needed to use the immense resources of the FBI to hold this guy accountable.
[00:03:31] So about 16 or 17 years before this case landed squarely on my desk, Sam was living out of state. It was a neighboring state. He lived in a large metropolitan city in our neighboring state. He was a volunteer for a very large national youth mentoring organization. He was single at this time. He worked in the computer field, which was how he made a pretty good living, again living in this large city. As part of this organization that he volunteered for, he would take several boys from this organization, sometimes individually, and sometimes as small groups, he would take them on camping trips. They would go out into the middle of nowhere wilderness areas, and he would set up his RV. He was low tech back in these days, and he had a Polaroid camera. And basically, as part of the camping trips, he would have the boys shower on the side of the RV. And while they were showering, he would take pictures of them. That’s how high tech and how sophisticated he was at that time.
[00:04:32] When this got reported to local authorities in this other state, they launched an investigation and contacted all the boys that he had contact with through this organization. What the investigators learned at that time was that multiple boys reported being sexually touched by Sam. It happened in different situations, like I mentioned the camping situation, but also sometimes Sam would teach the boys how to wrestle, and this touching would happen while they were wrestling. And that way, if the boys were to say anything, then he could just say, “Oh, that was inadvertent,” or, “because we’re moving around,” or whatever. The investigation also revealed that Sam would show them stuff on his computer. And basically, when the screensaver would go away, he would have pornography on the screen, and he would be like, “Oh, sorry, sorry, you weren’t supposed to see that. Sorry about that.” I believe and I know now, it was to desensitize them to the sexual imagery and also maybe to spark a conversation or a reaction that he can then take advantage of.
Yeardley: [00:05:34] So, that reveal when the screensaver would go away, and they would see pornography, and he’s apologizing, saying, “You’re not supposed to see,” that was totally intentional on his part?
Robert: [00:05:44] Yes.
Yeardley: [00:05:44] See how far he can get with them, whether or not they’re receptive to it?
Robert: [00:05:48] Yeah.
Dave: [00:05:49] Besides the grooming behavior, he already checked two boxes for me right off the top. One is, I’ll ask a question, did he have kids?
Robert: [00:05:56] At this time, he did not.
Dave: [00:05:58] Okay. So, he checks the first box. He works around youth and he has no children himself. It’s one thing to have kids, and you end up being a youth sports coach. He doesn’t have kids, but he wants to be around kids. That checks a box for me. The other one, he works in the computer field.
Robert: [00:06:15] Absolutely.
Yeardley: [00:06:17] Dave, how does Sam working in computers check a box for you that he might be a pedophile?
Dave: [00:06:25] Based on what Detective Robert is saying, Sam participates in grooming-type behavior, and from putting himself into positions where he’s around children, doesn’t have children of his own. He’s familiar with computers. Based on my experience with my caseload, especially those that were involved in computer crimes, we found that these users tended to understate their proficiency on the web. We would later get into their computers, and we find out that’s far from the truth that we actually consider them to be what we call superusers, where they have familiarity with filesystems and operating systems, being able to encrypt files, encrypt entire drives and encrypt folders. Those types of things let you know you’re not dealing with just– this isn’t like my father, he can get on the internet, but if I asked him a question about the dark web, he looked at me like, “What are you talking about, dark web? I don’t even know what that is.”
[00:07:29] These guys use applications and software that will hide their internet activity. They have Tor browser, which I’m going to butcher this, but it masks your activity online. It’s kind of like an extra layer of security for these users. Normal computer users don’t have those types of applications on their computer.
Yeardley: [00:07:51] Right, got it.
Robert: [00:07:53] Yeah. So, this agency, like I said, they do a good job, they investigate. They even involve the FBI early on, and the FBI helped them by looking at Sam’s computers. And basically, that investigation progressed, and they ended up arresting him and charging him in the state court system. Again, that’s a neighboring state. During this investigation and the start of the prosecution, Sam makes what I call a lame suicide attempt. What he does, he takes some pills and some alcohol, and he leaves all these dramatic documents behind. For example, he leaves a will, leaving all of his assets to two of these child victims, and they’re going to come up again. So, he writes a will, leaves everything to these child victims. Another long email about how he started a college trust fund for one of them. Another long letter said that he left $2,500 cash for one of these two particular victims, and he wanted him to spend it on girls and not on booze. And again, these are pre-teenagers, it was just kind of a just a really strange thing. Surprise, surprise, he does not die in the suicide attempt. As this case drags on, computer forensics takes a while, it just takes a long time for cases to work through the system.
[00:09:11] By the time this case gets to trial, these boys who are the victims, they are from single-parent homes, and their parent has sought out the mentoring of this youth organization that Sam is a part of. These parents eventually become uncooperative over time, and all these charges are eventually dropped. When I got my case, I reached out to the FBI and I reached out to this agency and said, “Hey, what happened? I read your case, and this looks like a really strong case.” And basically, as I mentioned, Sam was working in the computer field, he made a very decent salary. Everyone suspected that he had made kind of an unofficial civil compromise, i.e., paid out money to these parents to make this case go away.
Yeardley: [00:09:53] So, under the table, he’d gone behind law enforcement’s back and just said, “Here’s a payout.”
Robert: [00:09:58] Yes. Unofficially, out of court.
Yeardley: [00:10:01] Why can’t you just prosecute Sam, based on these actual images.
Robert: [00:10:07] Even with incriminating information like photos, we have to have victims who can authenticate that and say, “Yes, that’s me,” or, “This is how it happens.” So, if you have no one to come in and testify, they’re just unable to proceed. In my opinion, it couldn’t be a coincidence that all these victims suddenly become uncooperative.
[00:10:27] A couple years later, Sam travels down to the Philippines, and he’s in a mall in the Philippines, and he meets his wife, Nancy. Nancy is 10 years younger than him. She looks even younger than that. I saw pictures of what they met, and she looks like a young teenager. And they married just a few months after they meet. In later years, Nancy made it very clear that Sam spends more time with children than he does adults, which is a red flag to investigators of crimes against children. Sam and Nancy, over the years of their marriage, they go down to the Philippines many times. Again, that’s where she grew up and that’s where she’s from. And so, they go there at least a few times a year. One time when they’re down there, Sam is hanging out with Nancy’s younger brother, so Sam’s brother-in-law, and this younger brother comes home one day, and he’s kind of flustered. And he tells Nancy, “Your American is gay,” when she asked him what’s going on. She says, “Well, what are you talking about? And so, Nancy’s younger brother explains that Sam molested him while visiting the Philippines.
Yeardley: [00:11:34] How old is the younger brother?
Robert: [00:11:36] He is young teenager at that point. And then another time, Nancy and Sam are down there visiting. They stay at a nice hotel, and Nancy sees a lot of children going in and out of one of the hotel rooms. She recognizes them as children from the same neighborhood that she grew up in, and some of them are her distant relatives. She goes down to this room and looks inside, and what she finds is Sam playing strip poker with many younger boys. Just a room full of young boys, and they’re excited to be in a room with a nice big bed and sheets. And they’re fascinated by this TV that’s in this room. Basically, by talking to them, she learns that Sam has paid all of them to come up to this hotel room, and they’re all in various stages of undress, some of them naked.
[00:12:29] She also finds out this same experience, the strip poker day, that Sam is taking nude photos of the boys and sexually abusing them in exchange for money, electronics, and other gifts. Prior to their trip going down to the Philippines, he loads up on cheap electronics, like little videogame-playing devices, digital cameras, and cheap laptops that he can get through his work. He basically goes down and showers gifts on the kids in this community, and they basically see him as a hero, this rich American who’s traveling down there to give them all this stuff.
Yeardley: [00:13:03] Do these kids live in a poor community, so this kind of gifting, that kind of hotel room is not the norm for them?
Robert: [00:13:13] Correct. This is extreme luxury, something that they are definitely not accustomed to. And, of course, he’s handing out cash and all these gifts. And then over time, during our investigation, we learned that even when Sam is back in the States, he continues to send packages of gifts and exchanging money for things. It goes on and on. So, it’s not just while he’s there, but it continues while he’s back in the States. Sam marries Nancy, and they end up having two children. Some might think I’m extreme with what I’m about to say, but in this case, still many years after I investigated this case, I believe that he had children to attract children. I know that sounds crazy, but I really believe that in this case.
[00:14:01] Another thing that’s really crazy about this is, remember when I talked about Sam being investigated in this other state, and he has that lame suicide attempt, and he left all those letters and a will to two of those specific victims? Well, he happens to name his biological children after those two victims from this other state. So, the first names are an exact match, the spelling is an exact match.
Yeardley: [00:14:24] Oh, my God. He names his children after victims.
Robert: [00:14:27] Yes. About four years later, so four years after Sam marries Nancy, they move to my jurisdiction, and the red flags and the police reporting continue. One of the reasons that I talked about this background is to illustrate sometimes how long it takes our institutions. We don’t often communicate well. There’s all kinds of bureaucracy. You involve more agencies, the more complicated it gets. Part of that is just explaining how long it can take to catch one of these predators.
Four years after Sam and Nancy marry, Sam moves to my jurisdiction, he buys a house in a neighborhood whose backyard backs up to an elementary school. That’s probably not a coincidence. That is something that he intentionally did.
Dave: [00:15:14] I don’t think the marriage is a coincidence.
Robert: [00:15:16] I don’t think so either.
Yeardley: [00:15:17] Why do you say that, Dave?
Dave: [00:15:19] Federal agencies flag Americans who travel to the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, those areas. He marries Nancy, she’s from the Philippines, it gives him a perfect excuse to say, “We’re just going to visit her family.” So, it’s part of a cover. And then, he has children and names them after two previous victims. That is in the category of mementos and trophies that we come across in child abuse cases, that they’re like surrogates for the two previous victims. He’s checked so many boxes on our resources page that talks about grooming. He’s checked so many boxes already. The desensitization, all that stuff that Robert’s talking about, you see me, I’ve just been nodding the whole time.
Yeardley: [00:16:09] Dave has been nodding and throwing his arms up like, “Okay, another box checked.”
Dave: [00:16:14] So, the elementary school didn’t surprise me.
Yeardley: [00:16:16] And just to go back to your saying the FBI notes Americans who go to the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, places like that frequently, is that because those are high sex trafficking places?
Robert: [00:16:31] Yeah, absolutely. They call it foreign sex tourism, that is a big deal. It’s finally now I think mostly on the radar of federal law enforcement. It’s really easy to disappear in some of these tiny countries to. The Philippines consists of lots and lots and lots of islands, multiple languages, it’s really easy to disappear and do naughty stuff, if that’s what you’re up for. Sam is now working in computer encryption and technology for this large company in our area. Another thing that’s not a coincidence is Sam has the most high-tech state-of-the-art home video surveillance system going on. So, he got lots of cameras on the back of his house that face towards the elementary school, and the side of the house and the front of the house. So, he knows everything that’s going on in front of the house, and he’s definitely got eyes on the elementary school playground, recreation area, and the back of the school.
[00:17:26] A short time after Sam moves to our jurisdiction, we start getting calls about him. They’re smaller things but, again, I’m showing the accumulation and kind of how long things can take and how all the puzzle pieces come together. The first report that we get, again, just a few months after Sam moved to our area is there’s a report made to law enforcement that he had a young boy over at his house. And basically, he asked this boy to flash his genitals to one of the security cameras at his house and exchange for some beef jerky. He talks this kid into doing that. A deputy goes out and basically just writes a report and doesn’t really take any other action on it at that time.
[00:18:09] Another call that comes in just a month or two after this is someone called in and they thought it was weird that Sam was talking to a 14-year-old female neighbor, and explaining to her that in Asia, 14-year-old girls could have sex with whoever they wanted, which is promptly followed by Sam asking her whether she wants to spend the night at his house so that they can leave early the next morning and go fishing together, which fortunately, she declined and fortunately, her parents called into law enforcement. These, again, are small reports they don’t result in an arrest. Fortunately, they result in reports being written, and again, it’s further background and context about Sam.
Yeardley: [00:18:49] You’re gathering a paper trail of these incidences even though you can’t arrest him on those.
Robert: [00:18:54] Yes. And then, both of these reports that come in, they know that Sam has multiple firearms and then he’s happy to show the kids his guns and basically make sure everyone knows that he has them.
Robert: [00:19:22] About 10 years after Sam meets Nancy in the Philippines, they get divorced. This is about six years after they moved to our jurisdiction. They still have two young children, two boys. They get divorced and the kids live with Sam, and then Nancy lives elsewhere. She has gone from a very comfortable, upper middle-class lifestyle to now working in a factory, not making much money. She’s living in a small apartment. Her life has pretty much changed, especially with Sam having full custody of both of the boys, which is very unusual in our jurisdiction.
Yeardley: [00:20:00] Do you know how that happened?
Robert: [00:20:01] I think he’s financially well off. I don’t know how that divorce worked like that, where she didn’t get more money, and but she was living very simply and he was still living a very comfortable lifestyle. Fast forward about a year and a half after this divorce, and we get another one of these reports made to our office. This one’s assigned to me. Two parents call in and they report concerns that Sam is grooming their son and his friends. And so, I get assigned to investigate this. Basically, the long and short of it is that these parents are trying to instill in their child a good work ethic, and teach him to be independent, and go out and communicate. So, they send them door to door on his street. And basically, he goes on knocks on door and ask if he can cut the lawn or do some kind of yard work to make some extra money.
[00:20:56] Sam is very happy to have him, even though he has two sons of his own. He invites this kid to do some yard work. The parents of this boy are good with this, but their concern is that Sam is paying way more money than he should be paying. And again, this is 10 years ago from when we’re talking now. And this is a little kid, and he’s being paid $20 an hour to do some minimal yard work. They talk about another one of his friends getting $50 to pick up some branches and some leaves and put them in the yard waste. The parents, they’re right, their instincts are right, and parents’ instincts are often usually right, just like police instincts. And I think that we run into problems when we ignore those instincts and those promptings that come up.
[00:21:40] So, they called us in, and I look into it. I talk to these kids, and it’s not criminal in nature. But again, with this binder that’s filling up about Sam, it’s definitely concerning. So, I talk to these kids, and I think there were three or four of them at the time that I’m looking into. And they basically say, “Sam buys us pizza and soda.” He gave one of them some electronics, which sounds familiar? He gave one of them an Xbox. And these are things that these boys at this age cannot afford to buy on their own, nor can they go to a place to buy these on their own. Sam’s providing this along with money.
Yeardley: [00:22:20] When you get the reports from these concerned parents about the kids being overpaid for minimal yard work, do you at that point also have eyes on the other reports from the incidences around your area? Are you, Robert, adding all of this up and going, “We got a problem”?
Robert: [00:22:37] Yes, in this particular case was Sam because he had been arrested in that other state, when I run his name through our databases, he pops up. So, that was my starting point is, “I want to learn everything I can about this person. I’m going to interview at some point.” So, I find out he had been arrested in other state courts, I requested those reports from that agency and from the FBI. I read all about him. And then, my agency at this point had already had three or four of those other, what I call smaller reports about him. I was starting to really understand who this guy was. He stood out to me for many reasons. One is there’s a difference between preferential offenders and situational offenders, in my opinion. The preferential offender is someone who seeks out children specifically, whatever their demographic is. Is it a prepubescent child? Is it a preteen? Is it a teenager? Whatever it is, that’s who they’re attracted to.
[00:23:32] And then, the situational offender is different. That person might be gay or straight but they’re basically taking advantage of whatever situation presents itself to them. Or, they put themselves into situations where they intentionally have contact with their target demographic. So, they’re a coach, they’re a teacher, they’re a pediatrician, whatever it is. One thing that stood out to me about Sam is he doesn’t seem to have a preference between boys and girls. He is fine with whatever presents itself in front of him.
[00:24:03] A few months after this child labor gets looked into, Sam leaves this home where he lives and moves into a new neighborhood in a city that’s in my county. So, he no longer lives in my jurisdiction for which I’m responsible, but he lives in a city within my county, and he’s still super close by. Just a few months after he moves to this new home, which again, same thing, has a very fancy alarm system, very fancy camera system, very nice home, very large home. Because he’s divorced from Nancy, his mother moves into the home with him and is basically the primary caregiver for the children while Sam works.
[00:24:42] A few months after they move into this home, we hear from Nancy the wife. Basically, she goes into the local police department and reports the abuse that occurred in the Philippines, and she also reports seeing child pornography on Sam’s computer while they were married. She also reports that Sam is continuing his trips to the Philippines and visiting children there, and sending money, electronics, and other gifts to people there. She’s the one that tips us off that Sam is taking digital cameras on these trips, giving them to the children in the Philippines, and then requesting the children take photos of themselves and send them over the internet to him in America. So, he is basically using technology to further his sex crimes.
[00:25:32] An issue here is that Sam and Nancy at this point are divorced. Any disclosure of abuse during a divorce is always very suspicious, for many reasons. They’re trying to get the other half in trouble, they’re trying to get custody of the kids, they’re trying to get more money. Like, there’s just so many things going on here that any disclosure of abuse during a divorce or immediately after a divorce, or preceding a divorce are always very suspicious. However, Nancy shows up with evidence. She shows up at this police station, and she has pictures of Sam and the children in the hotel room in the Philippines. Because that is the community she grew up in and because some of these kids are relatives of hers, she has names, she has dates, she tells us the name of the hotel. And we’re off to the races at this point.
[00:26:28] These detectives in this nearby city, I work closely with them, we’re on the major crimes team together, and so we jointly start investigating. Now, because these potential crimes happened in the Philippines and they involve federal law, one of the best things we did in this case was to involve our partners at the FBI. And unlike on TV, they don’t come in and just bully the locals around, but they provide us so many resources. It was probably the most amazing partnership that I have seen in my career and probably will see in my career, and I’ll talk more about that. So, we turn all that stuff over to the FBI. A few months after Nancy makes this report, she calls in with some more information, something happening right now. She says that one of her relatives in the Philippines has reached out to her saying that Sam was requesting nude photos of her children on Facebook, and she actually has the messages. This is Facebook Messenger, just happened from Sam’s primary Facebook account.
[00:27:28] We moved to preserve the evidence working with Facebook. These messages include Sam doing his same old thing where he’s offering to exchange money and electronics for nude images of these little girls in the Philippines. Again, this is still all background to my main case with Sam. About three months after this, while this investigation is going on in the background with FBI, into our office, one day walks a family, and it’s parents and three girls. They had gone to the DA’s office and then they referred them over to our office. Basically, what this family reports is that the dad had worked with Sam at this high-tech company in this other state and had been laid off. And this dad, Sam’s colleague, had not been able to find work. And he had, again, three girls and this family was in not a good situation financially.
[00:28:26] The family had learned that Sam had moved to our state also, and so they reached out to him because again, they were former colleagues. When they explained their situation, Sam out of the kindness of his heart says, “Why don’t we do this? How about I take your girls off your hands? I’ll take care of them at my house. And that way you two can focus full time on finding work and finding a shelter to stay at, and basically get your lives in order. And then, when you’re on your feet, then you can have the girls back.”
Yeardley: [00:28:54] Dave is just shaking his head.
Dave: [00:28:56] Well, I’m curious. You start working up a background on Sam. At some point, I’m guessing, if you’re like me, which I know you are, you look up a DMV photo. Does this guy check the box?
Robert: [00:29:09] Yes, he does.[chuckles]
Robert: [00:29:13] He does to a certain extent.
Yeardley: [00:29:15] What boxes is Sam checking?
Dan: [00:29:17] It’s probably not a politically correct answer but it’s human nature is when you hear about things that people have done, people want to know what they look like. They want to see the person’s face. So, like in jury selection before I’ve had someone in the jury pool, look at the defendant and be like, “Well, look at him. He totally did it.” I’m like, “Well, we haven’t even heard one fact yet.” But there’s a creep factor to some of these guys that when you see them and just their affect, you go, “Okay, that’s not a stretch.” So, not politically correct, but definitely it’s human nature to look and observe and make judgments.
Yeardley: [00:30:02] No, I get it. I’m glad I asked the question. Okay. Sorry, Robert. Continue.
Robert: [00:30:09] Okay, so this family walks in, and because we’re years down the road from when Sam was taking care of these girls, these three sisters all report hands-on sexual abuse by Sam. They tell their parents that night before. The very next morning, and of course, they’re reporting to law enforcement. These parents are very responsive, and they do the right thing. They believe the girls.
Yeardley: [00:30:31] How old are the girls?
Robert: [00:30:32] The youngest at this point was 10, and the oldest was 14.
Yeardley: [00:30:36] And these are the ages they were at the time that they came to you with this disclosure, which means that they were quite a bit younger when they actually started staying with Sam, correct?
Robert: [00:30:49] Yes. And these girls, in addition to reporting the hands-on abuse by Sam, they also report that he has photographed them basically the whole time that they’ve lived with him. They also bring evidence. So, they are also bringing social media messaging that’s very clear that Sam is requesting nude photos of the girls. These messages say, when they talk about, “Well, I can’t fit my full self in the photo.” He says, “That’s okay. All I need is from the knees up, and don’t be shy.” That thing where he’s saying, “Don’t be shy,” I had seen that on messaging with children in the Philippines too. I’m making all these connections and just realizing Sam is exactly the person that I assumed him to be. He’s very brazen in his request, just asking them directly on Facebook, which I mean, those messages are stored years and years and years and years and years, even decades later.
Dave: [00:31:45] When you speak about Facebook, they have a law enforcement portal that we can access to submit preservation of records, subpoenas, search warrants, court process, that kind of stuff. It is so user friendly, and they are so responsive. I mean, due to the volume, it takes weeks to get the search warrant results back, but it’s probably the smoothest tech company that I’ve ever worked with. They are awesome to work with.
Robert: [00:32:14] I agree. I have a very positive experience working with them over the years. These girls come in. Again, they describe to their parents first what happened, then they tell us. One of them reported that when she was between six or eight years old and staying with Sam and couldn’t fall asleep, Sam would sexually touch her, telling that would help her sleep. And she also reported numerous instances of him walking in on her while she was showering. Another sister reported that Sam would sexually penetrate her with his hand and would explain to her that this is something that would happen to her when she was older. So, he was just helping her by getting her used to it now. Another girl talked about being sexually abused while driving. So, she’s sitting next to Sam in the passenger seat driving in middle school and he would sexually assault her in the car. Another girl said Sam had been taking photos of her while she was showering. And when she raised a fit about it, he bought her a new outfit at the mall to apologize and make up for it. The list just goes on and on.
[00:33:14] One of the sisters reported Sam taking close-up photos of her genitals while he was performing oral sex on her. All of the sisters talked about daily naked weigh-ins to make sure they were eating healthy and helping them lose weight. It just goes on and on. And then, this basically intense grooming eventually leads up to rape, like the legal definition of rape. Sam had offered them, just like we’d seen in many other instances, with his other victims, he’d offered them cell phones and computers in exchange for sex acts. And while he engaged in vaginal and anal sex with these girls, he would record them and take photos of them.
Dave: [00:33:54] Every one of those pictures is worth 70 months in prison in our state.
Yeardley: [00:33:58] How long did the girls live with Sam all told, was it like two years?
Robert: [00:34:02] Yeah, it was about two or three years. And there were some periods when it looked like the parents were back on their feet. And they would go back for a short time, and the job wouldn’t work out or the situation wouldn’t work out. And so they would have to go back to Sam. So, they’re in and out of Sam’s home during that time. He had basically full unfettered access to these girls.
Dan: [00:34:23] What a terrible feeling. If you’re one of those children, that your parents are basically dropping you off at the wolf’s house.
Robert: [00:34:30] Yeah. And then, these parents had known Sam for 13 years. They know he was a volunteer. He had the credentials is what I like to say. He had the credentials because he was volunteer with that youth organization. He presents well, he dresses as well. He’s clean, he’s got nice stuff. He had all the credentials for them to trust him, and of course, they wanted to trust him.
Dave: [00:34:53] It’s part of the grooming process. You’re not just grooming the child. You’re grooming everyone around you to avoid detection. So, parents are victims in this. Investigators recognize that the psychological impact it has on a parent when that betrayal occurs to them is tremendous. And we recognize that.
Robert: [00:35:14] I totally agree. And I want to give these parents credit too, because like I said, the girls finally told their parents one night, and immediately the next morning, they’re in our lobby, making a report. That’s who these parents are. I don’t believe that they knew anything was going on or suspected anything was going on until the daughters told them and they took immediate action. So, I’m really grateful for them.
Robert: [00:35:49] Basically, we talked about social media messages and working with Facebook. So instantly, we learned that all these girls had been communicating with Sam on social media. And so again, we get those messages. And we have the possibility to look at people’s phones or computers, when they’re in our office. They can show us, “Hey, here’s what I have on my phone right now.” But I always follow up by getting the original from whatever social media app it is. I’ve had cases over the years where victims come in, and they show me two or three or four photos. And it’s a problem, it’s a crime, and so I’m following up on that. But then when I get the messages from the original source, whatever it is, Facebook, Instagram, there’s a lot more that the victims aren’t even showing us. And so just doing a thorough investigation, and getting all of the material has been really useful, because there’s some things that victims are still too embarrassed to tell you all about, which is certainly understandable. But we need it, and it helps hold people accountable.
[00:36:48] We look through the messages between Sam and these girls. And basically, there’s lots of incriminating stuff. One of them was a message where he’s requesting photos of this girl while she’s showering, or he would cut off her phone service. Even though they’re not still living with him, there is still this bond or control that he has over them, where he’s threatening to cut off their phone service if they don’t provide him photos. And some of the other messages, I found that one girl had lost her phone, and she told him and was basically hoping to get another phone. He said that she would have to do work for him, and that she knows what he means by that. This girl writes back, and this is great evidence in our later case in state court, is she declined saying, “I don’t want to do that stuff anymore. Doing that stuff in the past gives me nightmares. I still have nightmares about it. And I cry myself to sleep a lot at night thinking about those things you’ve done to me.”
[00:37:43] These girls and their parents come in, and they tell us a lot of stuff. There’s a lot of stuff that we need to investigate. We want all three of these girls to go to a Child Assessment Center so that we can get what we call forensic interviews that are video recorded. They can be physically examined from head to toe by a doctor. But our Child Assessment Center sees over thousand children a year. They’re extremely busy. And even with the extreme crimes that we know about, it’s still going to be two or three weeks at least before these girls can go in there.
[00:38:21] My team decides, “You know what? We have enough. We’re not going to wait for Child Assessment Center interviews. We definitely have enough probable cause to arrest him on multiple crimes anyway.” And so we decided to do it. So, one morning as he’s driving his boys to school. We have deputies pull him over and we stop him and we arrest him. Sam is the perfect gentleman. He says he has no clue why he isn’t under arrest. He hasn’t committed any crimes. He’s just completely perplexed why we would even be pulling him over. But during that first initial interview, he basically says that he did care for the girls. And he claimed he didn’t remember any social media messages asking for nude pictures of the sisters. At that point, Sam knows that we’re on to him. He lawyers up. He’s done talking to us.
[00:39:08] And even when someone lawyers up, we’re still allowed to ask people for consent for things. We have a search warrant to go into his house and look for lots of electronics, including thumb drives and SIM cards and stuff. Those are tiny, which means that we’re going to be looking everywhere in that house, because if it’s a place where a tiny object can be, that means we can look anywhere. Sam has a safe, so we ask for the combination to the safe so we don’t have to break in. He gives us the wrong combo. He refuses to give us the password to his computer. And in kind of a weird way, he tells us, “You won’t be able to get into my computer.” And we don’t think too much about it. We know that we have the resources of the FBI, the Regional Computer Forensics Lab. We have local experts. But Sam was not kidding. That is his profession. That is his technical expertise. When these computers went to our local lab, they could not get in and they sent them to Quantico, and they could still not get into most of Sam’s computers.
Yeardley: [00:40:11] Did you ever get in? Please tell me that you got in at some point.
Robert: [00:40:15] No. There were some that we were never able to get into. Now, fortunately, we found enough child sex abuse material in unencrypted parts of his drive to more than satisfy our legal requirements for child sex abuse material. So, yeah, there’s stuff that we were never able to see, and I can only imagine what’s on there but there was plenty that we were able to see. Now, because he didn’t tell us his safe combo, we call our firefighters and they are great safecrackers. Most people probably don’t know that. But the fire department comes out and they have torches and they have all kinds of fun tools. I’m pretty sure they like doing that. It’s different, right?
Yeardley: [00:40:49] Dan and Dave are laughing about this.
Dave: [00:40:50] It’s like when we arrive to a fire first and we’re able to put three seconds of fire extinguisher on it and then your fire extinguisher is empty, and they’re like, “Nice try.”[chuckles]
Dave: [00:41:00] We’re like, “I got to firefight today.”[chuckles]
Yeardley: [00:41:05] I didn’t know they opened things like safes.
Robert: [00:41:07] Yeah.
Yeardley: [00:41:08] So, they opened the safe.
Robert: [00:41:09] Yeah, so they opened the safe and we find normal stuff, passwords, cash, some thumb drives. The same day that we take Sam into custody on the traffic stop, that’s our first search warrant at his house. And again, I wrote that search warrant and I wrote it for digital devices, storage devices, cameras. Basically, anything that all of our victims had talked about, I wrote for. This is a very large, spacious home. Again, Sam lives there with his two younger boys and his mother. And as we’re going through this home, I’m surprised. This home has everything a boy could ever want. It has arcade games, it has pinball machines, it has a pool table, it has slot machines, it has every piece of sporting equipment that you can imagine. It has camping equipment. It has toys. Sam’s got a large RV parked in the huge, oversized garage. It basically has everything that young boys would ever want. In my experience with these cases, this is also intentional.
[00:42:12] While we’re doing our search warrants, again, it’s a new home, so everything is just spick and span. But we notice in the upstairs hallway bathroom, we noticed kind of a weird hole in the wall. And so, one of our detectives goes up into the crawlspace. And basically, we find a wire that leads into Sam’s bedroom. What we determine it is there’s a hidden camera in the bathroom with a live feed into Sam’s room. We also find some alarm clock cameras in the home. These are basically what looks like a normal alarm clock, but they have hidden cameras in them. These have little storage cards in them, and we’re able to look at those too. Every computer that we seized had extreme encryption, and those went away to the experts like I talked about. But again, in the unencrypted areas on these devices, both the little thumb drives and storage devices and on the computers, there’s lots of child erotica, so nudity that’s not sexual or provocative in nature, beaches in the Philippines, that kind of stuff. There’s nudity that’s not sexual, but we also find child sex abuse material.
[00:43:16] As we’re going through the bookshelf, I find some books. The first book is entitled True And False Allegations Of Sex Abuse. And the second one is another book by a different author called Allegations of Sexual Abuse. This one had a client workbook and an attorney workbook. Sam had prepared for the day that he would be caught, and he wanted to be prepared and knowledgeable about this.
Yeardley: [00:43:42] Had he filled out any part of the client portion of that sex abuse book?
Robert: [00:43:47] He had not, but he had them and I had never seen those at any other suspects house before. After we complete our search of his house, we work with our partners at the Child Protective Services Agency, and they’re fine with Sam’s boys staying in custody with their grandma who is now basically functioning as their full-time care provider anyway. Our agency that same day, we do immediate release, because we know that Sam is also at this point coaching a boys baseball team, and he is an avid sports photographer for every child sports team those boys have anything to do with whatsoever. We’re working closely with FBI. They’re handling the international stuff, but now we have a very large state case as well.
[00:44:31] Well, what happens when you put out a media release on a serial offender is our phones are ringing off the hook. We were getting lots and lots of calls. That is how we found out that Sam’s a volunteer team photographer for all these youth sports teams. We were given lots more links of all these places where Sam posted photos of these kids who were playing sports. We get phone calls from lots of kids who had spent the night at Sam’s house. Basically, what they’re saying is that when you spend the night at Sam’s house, there’s a strict shower rule. Everyone who comes to the house has to take a shower. Multiple children told us that they were told where to stand when they got out of the shower. There’s a particular mat to stand on. What we noted from when we did the search warrant at his house was that this lines up where that hidden camera would capture you best, basically. If you get out of the shower, you stand on this mat, your face in the mirror, and that’s where the camera was set up to capture. So, he would instruct the children where to stand when they get out of the shower. And as we were going through all that digital material, we found lots of that material. Children in the shower and getting out of the shower.
Yeardley: [00:45:40] Did Sam’s sons have a lot of friends? And did they ever report sexual abuse at the hands of their father?
Robert: [00:45:49] Sam’s sons had tons of friends, and they again would draw in these other children because of all the fun things that Sam had to do, and places they would go and he had lots of money. When Sam lived in my jurisdiction– we talked about his first house in our area. When they moved to this other place, it was kind of moving on up in the world, it’s a much nicer neighborhood with that community pool. And so, a lot of kids from the old neighborhood, and the old sports teams would come over to the new place. It’s probably 10 or 15 miles away. So, they kept those [unintelligible 00:46:25].
[00:46:24] Now, as far as Sam’s own children, they never made any disclosure of any sexual abuse at all. We sent them to the Child Assessment Center, and they never disclosed any crimes by their dad. And I tend to believe that they were being used as magnets to bring these other kids to the home and to give their dad access to these other kids. But no, they never disclosed any abuse themselves.
Yeardley: [00:46:48] One wonders what they think about the mandatory shower rule. They must know about it.
Robert: [00:46:52] Yeah.
Yeardley: [00:46:53] Or, if you don’t know any different, maybe like, “Yeah, that’s the way it goes.” It’s just awful.
Robert: [00:46:59] After our media release, we kept getting lots of phone calls, lots of messages. In fact, there were times where I would get up from my cubicle to walk to the front of my office to fax something, and I come back, I’ve had three voicemails in the short time I’ve been gone. I mean, these are just busy times. Some boys reported that Sam would want to peek down their pants, he would tell him he was just checking their tan lines. Others said that Sam wanted to show them a pressure point at their groin. Multiple reports say he was photographing them in the shower in the bathtub. So, he was up to his old tricks again, but the technology had moved on from the old days in this other state with the Polaroid, to now the hidden camera cell phone. And then, we got lots of calls from fans of Sam, people who saw him as a father figure, people who saw him as a mentor, and several parents calling in to tell me how wrong I was for arresting Sam, because he was a good guy and I was just looking at the negative.
Dan: [00:47:52] Because they weren’t there when the search warrant got executed.
Robert: [00:47:55] Correct.
Dan: [00:47:56] They don’t know.
Robert: [00:47:57] Yeah.
Dan: [00:47:58] Something to touch on, and this goes back to your execution of the search warrant. Did these three girls that stayed with Sam, they never confronted Sam via text message or phone call, correct?
Robert: [00:48:10] No, they did not. And in fact, prior to them coming in to make their report, there was basically some time where they hadn’t had any contact with him, which I think helped them feel more comfortable telling their parents.
Dan: [00:48:21] Which is important too, because if you confront Sam, Sam says, “Oh, no. Now, the cops are going to be involved in my life. I’ve got to start getting rid of evidence.” That’s why it’s so important when we talk about these cases, and sometimes you guys do phone stings, pretext phone calls, that’s why it’s important for parents to go to the police first, “Let us handle it because we have tools, and we have strategies and experience in dealing with these cases where we can get evidence and statements and other things.”
Yeardley: [00:48:53] Everything you’d need to actually prosecute.
Dan: [00:48:56] Exactly. You can throw a really big wrench in the gears of this case if you confront the offender.
Dave: [00:49:02] Just as law enforcement, we understand the mama and papa bear response. Sam’s lucky nobody showed up at his front door with a rifle. Very fortunate. So, we understand the primal response. But like Dan says, go to the police first. It allows us to build a case, and it’s a defensible strategy, moving forward, getting to trial getting a conviction.
Robert: [00:49:26] Yeah. Amongst these calls that we’re getting after the media release, we’re simultaneously going through all the digital evidence and there’s a lot. We talked about there’s a lot that’s encrypted, but there’s also a lot that we can see. We’re finding some more bathroom and shower imagery that doesn’t match the house that we’ve done the search warrant on. I suspect this is probably the house that he moved from. I go, just knock on the door one day, and say, “Hey, I’m a detective and I’m investigating this case. It involves the guy who used to live here. Would it be okay if I walked through your house?” Basically, I show him a photo when I say, “Here’s what I’m looking for.” And they’re like, “Yeah, that’s our upstairs bathroom.”
[00:50:04] I go in there, and I’m able to take pictures, and we’re able to link that to where Sam used to live. Basically, he’s a creature of habit, and he had a hidden camera in the bathroom at his old house, and he has one on his new house. And then, because of his sports photography being posted on normal websites and youth sports league sites, I’m able to match these photos up with all these victims who have been recorded without their knowledge. And I’ll be honest, that’s very unpleasant too to track down a bunch of parents and boys and let them know that they’d been captured on camera by someone that they trusted and had been to their home. A lot of those boys and their parents agreed to be victims in our case and come in and testify.
[00:50:45] At this point, Sam’s in custody on a lot of charges involving children. I do want to say our state is fairly lenient on criminals. They really are. They’re pretty lenient as far as crime goes. But if you offend children, they will throw the book at you. And it is very appropriate. In fact, Dave had talked about, if you are producing distributing anything with child sex abuse material, you have mandatory prison sentence that you’re looking at. This case was no different. We had Sam on multiple, multiple felonies. His bail was set at three and a half million dollars. He was in the process of posting $350,000 bail to get out of jail. When we called our friends at the FBI, and they said, “This guy travels internationally all the time.” This was our concern too. This was my concern that he would bail. And of course, his attorney’s responses, “Well, we’re happy to provide the passport.” And the FBI Supervisory Special Agent that I was working with, she was like, “Yeah, we’re not having that.” And so, they put what’s called a marshal’s hold on Sam.
Yeardley: [00:51:48] What is that? What’s a marshal’s hold?
Dan: [00:51:49] So anytime a suspect gets charged with a federal offense, the US Marshals office, no matter which federal agency made the arrest, the US Marshals office actually assumes custody of that federal prisoner.
Yeardley: [00:52:05] Why wouldn’t it be assumed he was already in Marshals custody?
Dan: [00:52:07] Because the Marshals aren’t the investigating agency. The FBI is.
Yeardley: [00:52:12] It sort of a formality that they say, “We’re going to put Sam in this Marshals hold. Giving us his passport isn’t good enough?”
Dan: [00:52:20] Correct. And that’ll keep him in custody, he won’t be able to go anywhere.
Yeardley: [00:52:23] Okay, got it.
Robert: [00:52:25] We accepted his $350,000 security and released him from local custody, but he was immediately placed into federal custody. He didn’t care for that very much. But we were very concerned that he was a flight risk. And at this point, just the number of victims that we knew about, were in the dozens, and we know that there’s always more that we won’t know about. Particularly, male victims are not super enthusiastic about coming forward and reporting being victims. So, we knew there were a lot more. So, I really applaud the feds. They’re not always the quickest moving but in this case, they really want to make a quick move and make sure that Sam cannot be released.
Robert: [00:53:21] Sam is a guy who just doesn’t get it when he’s told not to have contact with children. What we had was while he was in custody, two things happen. One, Sam calls his mom who’s his connection to the world now, and he finds out that she is at a baseball game with Sam’s kids and all their friends, some of whom are victims in this case. Sam is basically asking his mom to hand off the phone so he can talk to these kids. He’s been ordered by a judge not to have any contact with kids. We present this to our judge who revoked his bail that he’s posted. He’s posted $350,000, we get that forfeited to the state because he’s been ordered not to have contact with his victims. So, that was a big victory for us. Again, part of holding Sam accountable who doesn’t understand, no.
Yeardley: [00:54:12] When you say that his bail is forfeited, if it wasn’t forfeited, he could potentially get that $350,000 back, but now the state has taken it and now go towards something good.
Robert: [00:54:24] Yes.
Yeardley: [00:54:25] Sam doesn’t get it back.
Robert: [00:54:27] Sam doesn’t get it back. He then leaves our jail and goes to another jail where the Feds hold their pretrial people. While he’s over there, Sam’s mom and the boys show up for a visit. This is just a guy who just doesn’t understand no contact with kids. There’s a little bit of confusion and they don’t understand that he can’t even see his own kids. They allow him a visit. So, he has a visit with his own kids. But again, we use that as a way to hold him accountable that this guy, Sam, just doesn’t understand. So, we cut off contact through the phone system with his mom, with Nancy, who he is also trying lots of calls and the boys, so he just doesn’t get it.
Dave: [00:55:08] Is Sam’s mom supportive of him or she appropriately disgusted?
Robert: [00:55:12] Sam’s mom is very supportive of him that 350k, a lot of that came from her retirement funds. She basically comes and posts her retirement savings to bail him out, which is revoked.
Dave: [00:55:25] You can be supportive and love your loved one but hate what they did. We recognize there’s a difference.
Robert: [00:55:31] Yeah. It is hard to think about your loved one being a monster. Even while all this is going on, I’m still having more victims coming forward. So, we go back to grand jury three more times, I think, to add more victims, more charges. These are all boys who have been in contact with Sam through the sports teams. They talk about the shower rule at his residence, Sam touching them while they’re wrestling. It’s just a lot.
[00:55:57] Computer forensics is ongoing. We talked about lots of boys being identified from the sports photos because their name and a clothed picture of them is on this website. So, we’re able to ID all those. We pull out the storage devices from the alarm clock hidden cameras, and basically, they’re full of naked children in the Philippines from this hotel. So, it becomes evident that Sam takes these alarm clocks down to his hotel room, plugs them in and is recording all that activity with the children down there. We also find out that he has a membership in a Russian website that deals in child sex abuse material. So, the feds are just all over that. They’re doing all that stuff while we’re doing our thing.
[00:56:35] Like I said, we went to grand jury several times. We have Sam on numerous charges. We have unlawful sexual penetration, we have sexual abuse, we have using a child and on display of sexually explicit conduct, we have sodomy, we have rapes. We just have a lot of charges. We go back several more times for more of the same. While this is going on, more victims are still coming forward. It’s just constantly adding to our list of victims.
[00:57:00] I want to highlight some of the work that the FBI did on their end of it. I’m in close touch with the Supervisory Special Agent and the special agents that are working on this on the federal side of the house. This agent that goes to the Philippines, he has a good starting point from Sam’s ex-wife, Nancy. So, he knows where to start. And he goes down there, and he’s able to get recorded statements from a lot of kiddos and their parents. He’s able to go in that hotel and match up sheets and blankets and pillows. So, we know exactly where it happened. It is a crime for American citizens to go abroad and engage in sexual tourism, is what it’s called, or to go abuse kids in foreign countries. The United States government and the United States Attorney’s Office will go after its own citizens for doing that overseas. This was the first case of foreign sex tourism prosecuted in this district. It was kind of a big deal.
[00:58:01] I want to just highlight some other things that the special agent had to deal with stuff that I’d never have had to deal with. He is on the other side of the world, he gets great statements. He’s basically building a case, but he’s dealing with this phenomenon where a lot of these kiddos and their parents think that Sam is a saint. They see him as someone who is providing money, and electronics, and school supplies. There’s a lot of messages about how he’ll buy school supplies if they provide him naked photos. They see him as his provider, and they don’t want to cut him off. They do not want to participate. They want nothing to do with this federal prosecution. Fortunately, there are other victims and their parents who see this for what it is, and they want to help.
[00:58:44] And that’s where we run into some more obstacles. These children that want to help and testify, they don’t have passports. In fact, a lot of them don’t have birth certificates. There is no legal record of their birth. So, this special agent who’s there, I know he planned to be there about a week, he ended up staying many, many, many weeks because he had to take these kids to the jurisdiction where they were born, register them, get birth certificates, and then get them over to the US Embassy and try to get them passports and visas and permission to travel to the US. So, I cannot say enough good about this special agent. He had to do all that kind of stuff while being weeks away from his family and home. It’s just amazing. So, let’s talk about the trials. We had a trial in state court, and it lasts about three weeks.
Yeardley: [00:59:43] What about Sam’s attorneys? Did he have good ones because he seemed to do quite well for himself?
Robert: [00:59:50] He had extremely effective counsel. He had a power team of two very highly effective experienced lawyers. One was local and one came from the area down were Dan and Dave work when he came up for this trial. This trial lasted three weeks, it was intense. It was very sad. There was lots of crying from our witnesses, from the jurors. Very, very, very sad case as you can imagine. It was a long three weeks. At the end of the three weeks, Sam was found guilty on all the charges that we had, and he was sentenced to 52 years in state prison. We were very satisfied with that verdict. We felt that if anyone deserved that much time, it was Sam.
Yeardley: [01:00:36] Does he serve every day of it? Or is he eligible for parole?
Robert: [01:00:39] No, these are mandatory prison times, no early release, no alternative sentencing. You don’t get to go live at a work release center or anything like that. And then another thing that Sam had not going for him was the federal charges that were also pending. And some people might ask, “Why if someone is sentenced to 52 years, would you then go ahead with another trial? Why would you go to all the trouble and the expense and travel of a federal trial?” Well, we happen to work and practice in a state where our court of appeals and our Supreme Court, you just never know what they’re going to do when they have a case in front of them. Again, this is the local prosecutors, me and my team, and the federal prosecutors and the federal investigators, we had very good communication and collaboration on this. We decided yes, we do need to try him in federal court to basically just in case, anything happens with this state sentence that we know that Sam is never going to have contact with children again.
[01:01:46] This federal trial goes on. It had a lot of interesting logistics that we don’t deal with in local court and local trials, like I mentioned. These kids, and I think, they were able to bring one caregiver each traveled all the way from the Philippines to the United States. They basically needed clothing. They came here and they went on a shopping spree with the victims’ assistance people, and they got clothing to wear to court. We needed to house them for an unknown amount of time. We didn’t know how long this was going to be. This trial was also about three weeks. They needed to be in hotels during that time. They’re kids, so they need to have school. So, they had some sort of setup where they were learning when they’re not in court. And then each day, they had one fun sightseeing trip.
[01:02:30] We don’t normally entertain our victims or witnesses in cases, but these are little kids. And so, they took them to waterfalls, they took them to the mountains, they took them to the mall. They had some fun activity every day to keep these kids entertained while they’re so far from home. The federal trial, it goes on three weeks. Again, it’s a vigorous defense. It was the same defense attorneys as in the state case.
Yeardley: [01:02:54] What is the defense?
Robert: [01:02:55] The defense was that all these kids were mistaken, that Sam did not have a sexual intent. You bring up a great question, Yeardley, because that’s really all these defense attorneys had. We had so much evidence. They hit it as hard as they could with trying to say that all these kids were mistaken and all that stuff, but they really just did not have a lot to go with.
Yeardley: [01:03:17] And I should think that victim blaming, which is that very much on the precipice of saying these kids are mistaken, is not popular.
Robert: [01:03:25] No, it’s not popular, definitely didn’t sway the jurors at all. At the end of the three weeks, Sam was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison. At no point in either of these prosecutions, did he ever consider a plea deal or making it where these children did not have to come in and testify against him. He never accepted any responsibility for his crimes. At his federal sentencing when he was asked if he had anything to say, he asked the judge, “I would like to be lodged at the nearest federal prison,” which for us is about an hour and a half away. And the judge says, “Well, the US Bureau of Prisons decides that, but I’ll make a note in here.” Let’s just say that Sam is not anywhere near our state. He was sent out to a federal prison that is far from here, which I’m sure will reduce visits from his family members.
Yeardley: [01:04:17] Robert, you said at the very beginning of his cases, this is the worst sexual predator you’ve ever investigated. And I think in my time on this podcast, Sam is certainly one of the worst that I’ve heard of. I think one of the things that strikes me is, how voracious his appetite was. What is that?
Robert: [01:04:36] It’s an obsession. I mean, it really is. It’s kind of like what he wakes up and thinks about, from the time he wakes up till the time he goes to bed, and then he’s continuously feeding that same appetite. If you think about offenders who like children, if you think about it as their sexual orientation, I know that’s a weird way to put it, but if you think about it, that is what drives that. They’re at the mall or they’re at these sporting events and they’re looking at, “Hey, this is what I’m looking for.” And then, they reinforce that appetite, or they reinforce that behavior by the trophies, by the pornography. In this case, Sam’s self-produced material, I think, it just reinforces that attraction and that drive.
Dave: [01:05:18] You talked about an offer of a plea deal, and I see two aspects to that. One is, with all those charges, his exposure is to the point where it’s like, “I’m going to roll the dice at trial, because I’m going to be going away for decades anyway. So, I’m just going to take my chances.” The other aspect is he gets to see all these children again.
Robert: [01:05:37] Dave is exactly right. This was a final opportunity for him to see those victims again, in court. And that’s also super disturbing to think about, but I believe that was also a big part of his wanting to go to trial. Just wrapping up, this was the first sexual tourism prosecution in our federal district, it was quite an accomplishment. It definitely could not have been done without a lot of dedicated investigators. I’m just the one telling the story, but it was a monumental effort. It was really awesome.
[01:06:06] A couple of nice things that came from this, there’s good in every situation. One was, we talked about that $350,000 that had been forfeited. I am sad to say that some of that went to pay for Sam’s defense. His attorneys were very successful in arguing that some of that be released to them to pay for their costs. But I’m very happy to report that the rest of that money was distributed to the victims of the crimes. The three girls had a lot of money set aside for them to pay for their college and university when the time comes. A lot of the restitution in this case comes from counseling and therapy bills, because those girls and some of these other victims need that. But I’m happy to say that the money was distributed to these three sisters who were just awesome throughout everything we asked of them.
[01:06:56] And then, these kids that came over from the Philippines, they were just absolutely adorable. You just never knew what they were going to say. It is incredibly difficult. I still get nervous testifying in court now. I’m 20 plus years into this business, and I get nervous testifying in court. And these kids came over and they did it. It’s very scary and very intimidating, and they did it. The other nice thing that they did was, we were recognized with a Director’s Award from the FBI. Me and the special agent assigned and the local prosecutors and the federal prosecutors all got flown to Washington DC, we had a nice little ceremony. My partner, Tony, and I had a nice short week in DC seeing the sights and meeting the director of the FBI was cool. Definitely one of the coolest things I’ve done in my career.
[01:07:43] At the end of the day, we’re able to, finally, after years and years and years and years of Sam abusing children, we were finally able to hold him accountable and just finally know that he will not have any more access to children ever, ever again. And that is the absolute best part of this case, is knowing that no one else will have to suffer as a result of Sam.
Yeardley: [01:08:10] That’s incredible.
Dan: [01:08:11] Amazing work.
Dave: [01:08:13] Outstanding work.
Yeardley: [01:08:14] Really from so many people.
Dan: [01:08:17] Thank you, Robert.
Dave: [01:08:18] Love having you on our podcast.
Yeardley: [01:08:20] Yeah.
Robert: [01:08:20] Love being on your podcast. Thank you.[music]
Yeardley: [01:08:28] Small Town Dicks is produced by Gary Scott and Yeardley Smith, and coproduced by Detectives Dan and Dave. This episode was edited by Soren Begin, Gary Scott, and me, Yeardley Smith. Our associate producers are Erin Gaynor, the Real Nick Smitty and Alec Cowan. Our music is composed by John Forest. Our editors extraordinaire are Logan Heftel and Soren Begin. Our books are cooked and cats wrangled by Ben Cornwell.
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