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Former Scout exec pleads guilty to child porn charges

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By STUART CASSIDY
Staff Writer

EVANSVILLE – An executive with a local district of the Boy Scouts of America who was arrested on counts of child pornography in November has agreed to plead guilty. Ryan C. Bieler, 33, of Ireland was alleged to have received and possessed sexually explicit material depicting minor children.

In the agreement, Bieler will plead guilty to one count of possessing sexually explicit materials involving minors and four counts of receiving similar content.

Though the agreement has not been formally accepted by the court, Bieler could face up to 10 years in a federal prison. He has been jailed without bond since his Nov. 8 arrest. A sentencing hearing is expected to take place in the next 30 to 60 days.

Since 2008, Bieler served as a senior district director of the Boy Scouts Buffalo Trace Council, which is based in Evansville and includes Spencer, Perry, Warrick, Dubois and Pike counties.

Authorities began to focus on Bieler after his name was discovered on a list of customers from a foreign movie-production company that was under investigation for the distribution of materials depicting sexually explicit conduct by children.

The case was initiated as part of the U.S. attorney’s Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse. The program was launched in 2006 by the Department of Justice and includes resources from the federal, state and local levels to rescue victims and help apprehend and prosecute those accused of exploitation.

“Our goal in any case involving the exploitation of children is to achieve justice for those who have been victimized,” U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana Joseph Hogsett said. “I hope this prosecution sends a message that our nationally recognized Project Safe Childhood team has a zero-tolerance policy for those who endanger Hoosier children ... We will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute these cases.”

According to a press release issued by the Department of Justice, a joint investigation between U.S. Postal Inspection Service and foreign law enforcement honed in on the production company in October 2010. In May last year, a search warrant was executed on the company and hundreds of DVDs and photographs depicting sex acts by minors were seized. Along with the confiscated items was the customer list.

A criminal complaint filed with the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana found records that Bieler, who lives at 2674 N. Dublin St., Jasper, was registered as a purchaser Feb. 19, 2011 of a video that depicted several nude minor boys.

A search of Bieler’s home Nov. 8, 2012 resulted in the discovery of several data-storage discs that allegedly contained images of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Further forensic analysis of a home computer revealed more child pornographic images.

Bieler allegedly admitted to purchasing the movies and regularly downloading images from the Internet, including some that were obtained within three days of the search.

During an interview with authorities prior to his arrest, Bieler allegedly admitted to having sexual interests in children, along with a strong interest in minor boys. Further investigation also uncovered written materials wherein Bieler allegedly described his physical attraction to particular boys he had interaction with as part of his duties with the Boy Scouts.

Hogsett said a thorough investigation of Bieler and his work with the Boy Scouts was conducted and no evidence was found that indicated Bieler had improper contact with Scouts or other children.

In late November, Buffalo Trace Scout Executive John Harding said the day-to-day interaction Bieler had with children as part of his job duties was limited. 

According to Harding, Bieler’s primary functions included work with other Scout leaders, but did include participation in camping trips and other outings.

Parents of the some 2,500 Scouts in the district were notified after the arrest.

In a media release issued Tuesday, Buffalo Trace Council officials said after learning of the allegations against Bieler, they immediately terminated his employment, revoked his membership and removed him from Scouting altogether.