A Kansas City, Kan., man accused in connection with an international child porn crackdown pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday.
By MARK MORRIS
The Kansas City Star
The victims of Robert Poe III, 38, said he forced them to perform oral sex on him while he baby-sat them years ago or took them on weekend trips with another man who also faces federal child exploitation charges.
Poe’s admissions came without any formal plea agreement. He faces up to 30 years on each of three felony counts at sentencing May 20.
Federal authorities in Kansas charged Poe in August, accusing him of forcing two boys to perform oral sex on him as he held a gun to their heads. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kim Martin repeated that allegation Tuesday in a recitation of evidence she would have produced had the case gone to trial.
That brought qualification from Poe’s lawyer, Tim Burdick.
“There are certain facts that Mr. Poe does not agree with,” Burdick said. “Mr. Poe does not agree that he used firearms with regards to the sex acts.”
Later, however, Poe acknowledged traveling between states to have sex with boys.
“Did you realize what you were doing was in violation of the law?” asked U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia.
“Yes,” Poe replied.
All the abuse in Poe’s case happened more than a decade ago. It came to light last year after Homeland Security Investigations agents followed up child exploitation tips in the Kansas City area.
Jim Gibbons, deputy special agent in charge of HSI’s Chicago office, said recently that his agency takes an “all hands on deck” approach to finding victims of child exploitation.
“We’ve been at this game a long time,” Gibbons said. “We have agents who are experts in this field, dedicated agents who really work hard to identify these victims.”
Following a tip from investigators in Boston, agents initially focused on Michael Arnett of Roeland Park, who took photos of nude schoolboys and fantasized with Internet buddies about sexually abusing, murdering and eating children.
When Arnett pleaded guilty last week in federal court to producing child porn, officials announced that “the conversations concerning cannibalism never extended beyond fantasy.”
As investigators spoke with Arnett’s victims, they began learning about Poe, who was one of Arnett’s friends, court records said. Authorities reopened a never-prosecuted November 2000 case in which a woman complained that Poe had repeatedly sexually abused her son while working as his baby sitter.
Another victim eventually told agents that Poe and Arnett had taken him on weekend trips more than a dozen years ago to St. Louis, Bennett Springs, Mo., and Oklahoma City and sexually abused him.
As agents prepared to arrest Poe last summer, he warned friends and said he was leaving town. On Aug. 6, he visited a friend from middle school and gave him permission to sell two of Poe’s motorcycles and a sport utility vehicle and give the proceeds to one of the victims.
Authorities arrested Poe a week later in Laredo, Texas, near the Mexican border.
The larger child porn investigation — dubbed Operation Holitna — began in Boston in 2010 with the arrest of a man on production of child porn charges. Authorities traced some of his files to the Netherlands, where authorities accused a Dutch man of sexually assaulting 87 children.
Following links and clues from each of the cases, investigators have since identified more than 150 victim children and arrested 60 suspects around the world.
Following up information from Arnett’s computers just days after Poe’s arrest, investigators in New Mexico charged an Albuquerque man with possession of child pornography.
To reach Mark Morris, call 816-234-4310 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.