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Published April 12, 2012, 05:31 PM

ND Man Sentenced to 10 Years on Child Porn Charges

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota man accused of possessing hundreds of child pornography images and contacting underage girls by phone was sentenced Thursday to 10 years in prison.

By: Associated Press,

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota man accused of possessing hundreds of child pornography images and contacting underage girls by phone was sentenced Thursday to 10 years in prison.

Benjamin Hager, 38, of Wahpeton, had pleaded guilty earlier in federal court to possession of materials involving the sexual exploitation of minors and receipt of materials involving the sexual exploitation of minors.

Authorities said a search of Hager's home in November 2010 yielded 747 VHS tapes, with as many as 4,400 hours of tape with numerous images of children engaged in sexually explicit behavior.

Prosecutors called Hager "a predator of young children." Police in Fergus Falls, Minn., said Hager talked with several middle school-aged girls by phone and over the Internet. One Fergus Falls girl contacted police after seeing Hager's picture in a news story about the case.

Hager had faced a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Federal sentencing guidelines called for a sentence of just over eight years.

U.S. Attorney Timothy Purdon said in a statement that the case was a testament to the success of the Department of Justice's Project Safe Childhood program.

"The program ensures that offenders like defendant Hager, who troll the Internet for the worst sort of images of the victimization of children, will face serious time in federal prison," Purdon said.

The case was built around exchanges Hager had with a Detroit-area man about their mutual sexual attraction to young girls. Court documents show that Robert Mueller, of Sterling Heights, Mich., used his four underage daughters to create and distribute sexually explicit images.

Hager allegedly communicated with Mueller's daughter by phone and email.

Mueller was sentenced last year to 45 years in prison.


Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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