Former JCC camp counselor detained pending trial

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published August 26, 2015

 Matthew Kuppe

Matthew Kuppe

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WEST BLOOMFIELD — A day camp counselor at the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit will remain in federal custody pending trial after he allegedly took photos of children undressing at the JCC.


Matthew Kuppe, 21, of West Bloomfield, was charged in federal court Aug. 13 with production, distribution and possession of child pornography, according to Khaalid Walls, northeast regional communications director/spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement with the Department of Homeland Security.


A detention hearing was held Aug. 18, at which U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Stafford ordered that Kuppe remain detained.


Sometime this month, Homeland Security Investigations received information from the Child Exploitation Investigations Unit, part of the Cyber Crimes Center, that nude photographs of young boys were posted by user “JCCLOCKERROOM” on an image-sharing website, according to court records.


Court records do not name the website, but U.S. Attorney Sara Woodward said at the detention hearing that the website is based in Russia and is frequented by people with sexual interest in children. Woodward said pictures were posted of three victims who are approximately 5 years old. The pictures also included the names of the victims.


One of the photographs posted on the website showed the shoe of the person taking the photograph, according to the criminal complaint.


An undercover officer based in Australia reportedly contacted the user “JCCLOCKERROOM” through a Gmail email address. Emails from the user were used, in addition to other evidence, as probable cause for the court to issue an arrest warrant.


Homeland Security Investigations matched the email account to an IP address in West Bloomfield, and Kuppe was identified as a resident at the address, according to the complaint.


West Bloomfield Deputy Police Chief Curt Lawson said agents from the Department of Homeland Security informed West Bloomfield police officers Aug. 12 of an ongoing investigation involving Kuppe. West Bloomfield police conducted surveillance of Kuppe on Aug. 12 and matched the shoes he was wearing to the one in the photograph, according to the court records.


Detectives, along with Homeland Security agents, obtained a search warrant for Kuppe’s house and conducted a search the night of Aug. 12. Investigators also reportedly interviewed the suspect. Officers seized Kuppe’s electronics, including a cellphone and an iPod, which Woodward said contained child pornography from the Internet. The electronics are still being reviewed.


According to the criminal complaint, Kuppe allegedly told police he is the user of the email address, that he took and posted the pictures of boys on the website, and that he had received child pornography from other Internet users through the email account. Kuppe reportedly provided consent for officers to access the email account. Officers found child pornography on the email account, including at least one sent by other Internet users, according to the complaint.


Woodward said Kuppe denied physically assaulting the young boys, but admitted to accidentally touching a young boy’s genitals and becoming aroused.


Defense attorney Walter Piszczatowski said during the detention hearing that Kuppe is a “model citizen” who graduated with honors, was the president of his Spanish club and participated in various college extracurriculars. Kuppe does not have a criminal record, has a close relationship with his family and doesn’t use drugs or alcohol, he added.


“He’s your typical A-plus, better than average — the kid you want to live next door — kind of student,” Piszczatowski said, claiming that Kuppe was neither a flight risk nor dangerous to the community. But Stafford said that because Kuppe is intelligent, she is concerned that he is dangerous.


“Mr. Kuppe apparently made himself a familiar figure to some children,” Stafford said, adding that his actions were “deceitful” and “designed to avoid detection.”


Stafford said she wouldn’t call Kuppe a model citizen, but instead a “model student.”


“Perhaps his intellect helped him find ways to devise these crimes,” Stafford said.


Piszczatowski requested that the court release Kuppe on bond and place him on house arrest. Kuppe’s parents, he said, agreed to be in the house to watch Kuppe “24/7” and make sure he 1does not have access to electronics, children or the Internet.


Woodward argued, “You cannot be certain he won’t have access to children. Even one mistake is more than we’re willing to endure.”


Michael Layne, spokesman for the JCC, said in a statement that the JCC is “committed to providing a safe environment for the people we serve. The health, safety and welfare of our campers is our highest priority.”


Layne said in the statement that Kuppe immediately was terminated.


“The individual was subject to a criminal background investigation that came back clear prior to his employment.


“The West Bloomfield police is investigating the matter, and we are cooperating fully with the police in their investigating. We are communicating with the parents of our program participants. All requests for information should be directed to the West Bloomfield Police Department,” Layne said in the statement.


A preliminary exam is scheduled to take place at 10 a.m. Aug. 27.

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