SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – A California man was sentenced to life in federal prison Tuesday for buying Filipino children for sex and pornography in what prosecutors called one of most “lurid, willful, and disturbing” child exploitation cases in the nation.
U.S. District Judge John Mendez said he was sickened by the crimes committed by Michael Carey Clemans, 57, of Sacramento.
Prosecutors said he gave detailed instructions on how young girls should be posed, how their hair should be cut, whether they should wear makeup or have their bodies oiled.
“His true plan was to find young girls, virgins, and then go have sex with them,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Andre Espinosa said. “A 57-year-old man doesn’t have sex with a 7-year-old girl – he rapes her.”
The sentence came after defense attorney Daniel Olmos argued that the judge should consider Clemans’ cooperation in helping authorities catch his co-conspirators.
But Mendez agreed with prosecutors, saying the “unthinkable, inexcusable” crimes outweighed the assistance.
“He has taken away the childhood of those victims,” Mendez said.
Clemans was an Army veteran with no criminal record who lived in Bangkok for two years while working as a pilot for a small airline. He later returned to Sacramento and lived with his mother while traveling to the Philippines several times.
He had “another side to his life,” Mendez said. “Mr. Clemans is a dangerous man. A danger particularly to children.”
Authorities said Clemans began conspiring with a woman in the Philippines in 2014 to produce child pornography and obtain girls.
He sent the woman, Lyan Tandeg, nearly $6,000 for equipment she used to photograph naked children so he could decide which ones he would rape when he traveled to the country, authorities said.
He directed her to find orphans, victims of typhoons and other vulnerable victims. He paid a co-conspirator, Shellina Atad, to obtain temporary custody of Filipino children and produce child pornography, authorities said.
Investigators found three of the children who posed for the pornographic photos, including one called “Angel,” when they were 7, 9, and 10.
Prosecutors brought them from the Philippines to Sacramento to testify at Clemans’ trial.
Tandeg and Atad were arrested in 2015 and sentenced to 15-year prison terms in the Philippines, according to court documents.
At one point, authorities said Clemans was communicating with more than 50 child pornography providers and obtained more than 27,000 child pornography images.
The internet and ease of global banking make it extremely easy for child pornographers to communicate, buy and sell children and pornography, and hide their identities, U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott said in highlighting 40 central California convictions over the last four years that brought sentences of 15 years or more.
“The internet is borderless,” said Ryan Spradlin, special agent in charge of the U.S. Homeland Security Investigations office in San Francisco. “An image on the web of a child being sexually abused can be seen by anyone anywhere in the world.”
Olmos acknowledged the “abhorrent” crimes but argued that Clemans should receive some sentencing consideration because he had a clean criminal record, accepted responsibility and let investigators use his online accounts to set up his co-conspirators for prosecution.
A jury found Clemans guilty in September of buying children, conspiracy and traveling with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct. He previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy, producing and receiving child pornography.
Olmos said Clemans will appeal his life sentence. Clemans stood seemingly emotionless during the hearing, but Mendez let him hug his parents and other family members before he was led away.
“Thank you for your support and love,” he told his mother. “I’ll see you on the other side.”