Former Christian radio DJ pleads guilty to federal child exploitation charges

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A Former Christian radio disc jockey admitted Monday in federal court he produced and possessed child pornography. The guilty plea follows an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

John Richard Balyo, 34, of Grand Rapids, faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and up to a maximum of 50 years. He must also register as a sex offender.

The investigation revealed that Balyo met up with another adult and a 12-year-old boy April 19, 2014, at a Kalamazoo hotel. In a room he rented, Balyo took sexually explicit photographs of the boy, including some involving bondage with the child in handcuffs. Balyo then engaged in sexual conduct with the child and recorded the encounter with his cell phone and an additional camera. Balyo paid the adult at the end of the encounter.

HSI special agents arrested Balyo June 20, 2014, on state charges of criminal sexual conduct. Those charges are currently pending.

HSI special agents and the Michigan State Police executed a search warrant at Balyo's residence that same day and later searched a storage unit where they found additional material relating to child abuse and sexual exploitation. HSI special agents later learned that Balyo had concealed his computer and other belongings with an acquaintance shortly before his arrest. After seeing the news reports, that person turned over the property to police. The computer contained multiple photographs of child pornography, including the ones from the Kalamazoo hotel.

"Child pornography creates a permanent record of a child being sexually exploited," said Marlon Miller, special agent in charge of HSI Detroit. "These children are continually victimized every time those images are transmitted, downloaded, shared or viewed. HSI will continue to work closely with the U.S. Attorney's Office and other law enforcement agencies to protect our children and aggressively pursue child predators."

"Individuals who prey upon children and create sexually graphic images will be found, and they will be prosecuted. The U.S. Attorney's Office in West Michigan and our state and federal partners are dedicated to the protection of children. These child predators should know that taking a single illegal picture exploiting a child means at least 15 years in a federal prison. They could also forfeit the computers, cameras, and even the houses that are used to sexually exploit children. We are committed to securing restitution for the victims to pay for the cost of medical care, counseling, and potential loss of income," said U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles Jr.

The investigation was conducted by HSI, in cooperation with the Michigan State Police Internet Crimes Against Children, the Battle Creek Police Department, the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety, and the Kent County Sheriff's Department.

This investigation is part of HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 10,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2013, more than 2,000 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative.

HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.

For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI's Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page.

HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.

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