Friday, 14 June 2013

The Little Agency that couldn't

Matthew Duhamel
Charles Granere

During the period between 2003 - 2006, Matthew Duhamel of Charles Granere of Salt Lake City, Utah, formed and operated a number of child modeling agencies, until they were eventually brought to justice.
Billy Capps

From 2003-2004, Duhamel and Granere operated a child modeling agency known as "A Model Shop." It's believed that Duhamel was the webmaster for the website, while Granere was his technical asistant. A Model Shop was however discontinued, when one of the photographers, Billy Capps of North Carolina, was arrested and convicted for child sexual exploitation. Capps was sentenced to 6 years in prison and 10 years probation.

Duhamel and Granere didn't let the arrest and conviction of one of their photographers dissuade them and they went back into business, starting a new child modeling agency known as "Flower Studios." This agency fared even worse than the first, within only a number of months another one of their photographers, this time Sheila Sellinger of Shoals, Indiana was facing criminal charges (which she was eventually convicted of) for distributing sexually explicit material involving minors. Sellinger was sentenced to 140 months in prison and a lifetime supervision after release. As per previous, Duhamel and Granere decided it would be best to shut down Flower Studios too.
Sheila Sellinger

However, later that year, Duhamel and Granere created a new child modeling agency known as "A Little Agency." Granere also established another agency entirely separate of "A Little Agency," called "Radiant Studios" (which he would later rename to be "Virtual Model Studios").

This was the state of the situation when they were busted: with Duhamel and Granere co-operating "A Little Agency" and Granere operating his side-project of "Virtual Model Studios"

"Federal agents call the child pornography industry a multiheaded monster. Lop the head off of one site, and another springs up somewhere else.

Money, officials say, and the dark appetites of countless faceless customers is what fuels this industry.

"This industry is a huge, huge moneymaking industry," said special agent-in-charge for the FBI Salt Lake City office, Bob Wright. "It's making money through the exploitation of individuals."

If there wasn't such a high demand, such sites would not keep popping up, Wright said. "It's the sheer monetary benefit of it, which is a sad commentary on society," he said.

Take the recent arrest of a Utah television personality and his Orem business partner who were both charged last week with operating Web sites in which people paid to download photos of 9- and 10-year-old girls dressed in scant clothing.

Federal prosecutors said this week that Matthew John Duhamel, 32, also known as Matt McCoy when he briefly worked as a weather forecaster for KUTV Channel 2, and Charles Phillip Granere, 26, made significant money operating such sites.

According to court documents, Duhamel netted tens of thousands of dollars in less than three months for posting provocative pictures taken by the parents of a 10-year-old girl. The documents show that the mother, who along with her husband were criminally charged in another state, told FBI agents that she was given a check for $17,000 from Duhamel for three months' worth of proceeds from her daughter's racy pictures.

A statement sent to the girl's parents by Duhamel in February 2005 indicated that Duhamel's site "flowerstudios," which has now been shut down, received more than $2,000 in memberships in a single week from a link to their daughter's photo site.

Prosecutors claim Duhamel, who had recently worked as a late-night talk show host on KPNZ Channel 24, had about "six figures" in his bank account when he was arrested.

However, the arrest and charge of the two parents last year sent shock waves through the Internet underground. Messages posted on a discussion board at a preteen modeling Web site "memorialized" the loss of the 10-year-old's "career" due to the arrest. "(She) was one of the fastest rising new models in the industry due to her very liberal outfits and poses and was a major threat to all competitors," the site states.

A Little Agency
News of the arrests caused many "models" to "retire" from their careers and several Web sites to dry up. However, paying customers were offered refunds and warned that if they paid by credit card, to expect to be contacted by law enforcement.

One posting offered to transfer paid accounts from "flowerstudios" to other Web sites offering similar photos of barely dressed children.

U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Brooke Wells on Tuesday ordered Duhamel released from custody under federal supervision pending the outcome of the charges. During a follow-up hearing Wednesday, Wells also ordered Granere released. Both men have been ordered to have no access to the Internet or unsupervised contact with anyone younger than 18 years.

Federal officials said they could not comment on the case because the investigation is ongoing."

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