The United States Department of Justice announced Monday, Oct. 27 that Timothy Brian Werlhof, 24, of Oakdale, pleaded guilty to possession of material involving the sexual exploitation of prepubescent minors.
According to court documents, Werlhof knowingly possessed pictures of children under the age of 12 involved in sexually explicit conduct. He possessed over 600 images, some of which were of vulnerable victims and sadomasochistic conduct. In addition to possessing the images, Werlhof made them available to others over the Internet.
The investigation into the case began on May 8 when a citizen reported finding an SD card while searching for recyclables in a dumpster behind the Yogurt Station on West F Street. The citizen loaded the card into his phone and saw that it contained images of child pornography and contacted the police.
Oakdale officers were able to recognize Werlhof from information on file and later Ceres High-Tech Police investigators determined that Werlhof was the owner by matching “selfies” contained on the card.
Detectives from both agencies served the search warrant on Werlhof’s home on May 22 and later arrested him after receiving reports of a suspicious person wandering the grounds of the Sierra Baptist Church at 74 N. Lee Ave., directly behind the residence.
After his arraignment, the case was transferred to the United States Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of California where the Federal Bureau of Investigation assisted in the investigation and the case was later prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Megan A. S. Richards.
Werlhof has been in custody since May 22, 2014. He is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Anthony W. Ishii on Jan. 5, 2015. Werlhof faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute those who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims.
For more information about Project Safe Childhood, readers can visit www.usdoj.gov/psc.