DETROIT (AP) - A Michigan man posed as a psychologist and persuaded mothers across the country to sexually assault their children as a form of therapy, then send him the images of the attacks, authorities said Monday.
Since authorities arrested him in October, seven children were rescued and at least three mothers have been arrested. Prosecutors say all of the children are now safe.
Steven Demink, 41, of Redford Township, Mich., appeared in federal court in Detroit to enter his plea on six charges related to the sexual exploitation of children. Seven charges were dropped as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors. He faces 15 years to life in prison when he is sentenced in June.
Court documents paint a picture of a man who targeted single mothers, and in some cases, promised a date if they followed through with his directions. He would identify himself as Dalton St. Clair, a single father of a 14-year-old girl, prosecutors said, and posted pictures of male models as his headshot.
He connected with mothers in New Hampshire, Idaho, Florida and elsewhere from April 2009 until September 2010, authorities say, and coerced and enticed them to engage in sexual acts with their children and send images via e-mail or through a live web stream.
The children ranged in age from 3 to 15, according to court documents.
According to the plea agreement, Demink engaged in online chats with an Oregon woman about the sexual development of her eight-year-old autistic son. He told her to engage in sexually explicit conduct with her son as a way to teach him about sex, and she did so while Demink watched on a web camera, prosecutors say.
"Demink intimated to these women that the result of the therapy would be healthier children," the document said.
The arrested mothers include a mother from Alva, Florida. WINK News is not identifying the woman to protect her children, whom prosecutors say are victims in the case.
The mother has pleaded not guilty to charges and is being held without bond in the Lee County jail. She faces both federal and state charges, and is scheduled for federal trial on May 2nd.
Prosecutors say Demink is also linked to four other mothers in Indiana, Georgia, Illinois and Oregon but has not been charged with crimes related to those communications. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Mulcahy said those cases are not part of the indictment but can be considered during sentencing.
In court on Monday, Demink told U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen he understood the charges and that he was giving up his right to a trial by pleading guilty. When Rosen asked how Demink was feeling, he said, "Nervous, your honor."
Demink's attorney, Timothy Dinan, said his client "has expressed a lot of remorse" for what he did and has taken responsibility by pleading guilty. Dinan said Demink's parents, who were in court but declined to be interviewed, are praying for their son as well as the victims and their families.
"It's a shame he couldn't ask for help," Dinan said.