Roeland Park man admits producing child pornography

A Roeland Park man pleaded guilty in Kansas federal court Monday to a child pornography charge in a case linked to an international conspiracy to distribute illegal images.

Michael D. Arnett, a 38-year-old former emergency medical technician, admitted that he took photos of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct between 2000 and July 2008. Authorities charged him in May with three child pornography counts.

Homeland Security agents investigating a global network of alleged child porn producers identified Arnett last year by enhancing a child porn image discovered in Wisconsin that included a water bottle stamped with the logo of a Johnson County aquatic center. Investigators found two teens who said they had been abused when they were younger.

On a computer in Arnett’s home, investigators found images of a nude 1- to 2-year old boy, lying on a roaster pan and sitting inside an oven.

They also uncovered online chats with a Florida man with whom Arnett discussed killing and eating children, according to charges filed against a man there.

The Florida man later acknowledged chatting online with several people about strangling children but said those only were fantasies, and he “would never really do this.”

According to the terms of Arnett’s sealed plea agreement, he agreed not to ask for a sentence of less than 20 years, and prosecutors agreed not to ask for a sentence of more than 30 years, the maximum allowed by law. Judge Carlos Murguia set Arnett’s sentencing hearing for May 13.

In August, authorities arrested a friend of Arnett’s, Robert Poe III of Kansas City, Kan., and charged him with sexually abusing two boys and transporting a minor for the purpose of engaging in a sexual act.

The international investigation, dubbed Operation Holitna, has led to 34 arrests overseas and 16 in the U.S. with about 160 child victims identified and rescued, a Homeland Security spokesman recently said.

The case began in Boston in 2010 with the discovery of child porn images on a computer there. Investigators determined that the images were not of U.S. origin and shared them with Interpol, the international police organization.

The operator of a Dutch daycare center later was charged, and the investigation spread from there, authorities said.