WDAY.com

WDAZ: Your Home Team

Published February 13, 2011, 05:19 PM

Wahpeton Man Faces Child Porn Charges

Documents unsealed in Fargo’s U.S. District Court this month depict Hager as having an escalating sexual desire for children — up to and including communicating with the same underage girls who were used to create the images he craved.

By: Kristin M. Daum, Inforum

Benjamin Hager’s interest in child pornography allegedly went far beyond looking at images produced and disseminated by a stranger.

Documents unsealed in Fargo’s U.S. District Court this month depict Hager as having an escalating sexual desire for children — up to and including communicating with the same underage girls who were used to create the images he craved.

A federal criminal complaint filed this month charges Hager, 37, of Wahpeton, N.D., with possessing child pornography.

An arraignment hearing, in which Hager would enter a plea to the charge, has not yet been set.

A search of background records indicates Hager, of 716 Sixth St. S., Apt. 7, had no criminal history before this federal charge against him.

But the recently unsealed court documents reveal disturbing details about Hager’s adult life, which federal authorities say “establish a pattern of conduct involving children.”

According to the court documents:

In January 2000, federal authorities traced a $100 purchase of child pornography from Moscow, Russia, to Hager’s Wahpeton apartment.

Hager initially denied he sent the money overseas, but a day later, he admitted to authorities that he’d wired the $100 to purchase access to a teen sex website, which he claimed he never received.

In April 2009, Wahpeton police received a complaint from the mother of a 13-year-old girl in Illinois.

The mother reported her daughter had been chatting with a person named “Benji” online and that their conversations “were sexual in nature.”

“Benji” had given the girl his phone number, which authorities traced back to Hager.

In a separate incident in December of that year, a 14-year-old girl contacted Watertown, S.D., police to also report having contact online with an adult who called himself “Benji.”

The girl told the police “she thought (he) was creepy and that he was always talking about her feet.”

Excerpts of their conversations show the chats progressed into an ever-more sexual nature — including lengthy discussion of Hager’s fetish for girls’ feet.

“So you’re 14, so what, age is nothing but a # to me!!” reads one of the messages Hager allegedly sent the girl as “Benji.”

The outcome of the three incidents is not discussed in the federal court documents.

Last summer, Hager’s name came up in a federal investigation into Robert John Mueller, of Sterling Heights, Mich. — who is accused of producing and disseminating sexually suggestive images that depict his four underage daughters.

Mueller is charged with 10 counts of sexually exploiting minors and children and awaits trial in Michigan’s Eastern District Court.

During the investigation into Mueller last year, authorities discovered he and Hager had been communicating by e-mail and postal mail between May 2008 and September 2008.

Using the nickname “Ace,” Hager told Mueller about his sexual fantasies, the young girls he’d see on the street and requests he had of Mueller’s daughters, such as a pair of their socks he could keep.

In turn, Mueller sent Hager various sexually explicit pictures of his daughters, the ages of whom are unknown.

When authorities later interviewed the girls’ mother, she told officials she remembered the girls talking about a man named “Ace” who called the home and “always wanted to speak to her children.”

Excerpts from e-mails between Mueller and Hager show Hager also had e-mailed one of Mueller’s daughters on more than one occasion.

In August 2010, Mueller was indicted in Michigan for his alleged crimes.

Federal investigators in North Dakota executed a search warrant at Hager’s apartment in November.

There, they discovered 747 VHS tapes allegedly containing images of girls at least as young as 5 years old and “hundreds of other images believed to be child erotica.”

The case — including court documents — had been sealed until Hager’s arrest earlier this month, when the criminal complaint was filed.

Hager is being held at the Cass County Jail.

Tags: