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U.S. Department of Justice.

WILKESBORO — A former Wells Fargo Information Technology employee was sentenced to 70 years in prison May 19 on child pornography charges, announced Dena J. King, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. Michael Scott Hoover, 52, of Wilkesboro, will also be subject to a lifetime of supervised release and must register as a sex offender upon his release from prison. Hoover was also ordered to pay special assessments totaling $132,300.

Ronnie Martinez, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in North Carolina and South Carolina, Robert Schurmeier, Director of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, and Sheriff Chris Shew of the Wilkes County Sheriff’s Office join U.S. Attorney King in making today’s announcement.

“Hoover is a predator who exploited innocent children entrusted in his care for his sexual gratification. I commend the prosecutors and investigators who worked hard on this case to ensure that Hoover is held accountable for his repugnant conduct. Thanks to their efforts, Hoover will spend decades behind bars, serving the longest prison sentence ever imposed on a child predator in this district,” said U.S. Attorney King in a press release.

“Our investigation, and the subsequent trial, have proven that Hoover is a serial child predator who stole the innocence of multiple young victims. Thanks to a thorough investigation by HSI and our partners, he was mistaken in his belief that his technical knowledge could be used to mask his criminal activity. With today’s sentence, he will be held fully accountable for his heinous crimes and will be prevented from harming another innocent child,” said Special Agent in Charge Martinez.

“This case exemplifies the exceptional collaboration between the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina and HSI, the Wilkes County Sheriff’s Office and our Computer Crimes Unit. I applaud the excellent work of all those involved to bring this individual to justice. I especially want to thank Project Safe Childhood for bringing this matter to the attention of law enforcement. Let the message be crystal clear, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation’s Computer Crimes Unit will work relentlessly to bring justice to those who would victimize the most vulnerable segment of our population,” said Director Schurmeier.

“The sentence today sends a clear message that these types of despicable acts will not be tolerated. The innocence of our youth should never be violated and the community is a safer place today. I want to thank the federal prosecutors and all the investigative agencies for their great work on this case,” said Sheriff Shew.

According to filed court documents, evidence presented at trial and witness testimony, between June 2018 and August 2019, Hoover used his work cell phone to produce images and videos of two minor males, as young as 12-years-old, engaging in sexually explicit conduct. The child pornography was found on Hoover’s work cell phone during an internal investigation by Wells Fargo, where Hoover was employed at the time. Upon discovering the child pornography, Wells Fargo immediately reported its findings to law enforcement.

According to information presented at the May 19 sentencing hearing, in addition to producing child pornography, Hoover sexually abused at least eight minors over the course of more than 10 years. Some of the abuse occurred at Hoover’s home and vehicle, and during camping and other overnight trips Hoover had volunteered to take the victims as a chaperone.

A federal jury found Hoover guilty of two counts of production of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography. Hoover is currently in federal custody. He will be transferred to the custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility.

In making the May 19 announcement, U.S. Attorney King commended the investigative work of HSI, SBI, and the Wilkes County Sheriff’s Office.

The prosecution for the government was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephanie Spaugh and Cortney Randall.

The case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse, launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

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