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Published October 19 2011

Wahpeton man pleads guilty to federal child pornography charges

FARGO – A Wahpeton man who faces decades in prison for possessing and receiving child pornography has pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court.

Prosecutors charged Benjamin Joseph Hager, 37, with sexually exploiting children in a case that connects him with a Detroit-area man who used his four underage daughters to create and distribute sexually explicit images.

Robert John Mueller was sentenced in September in Eastern Michigan’s U.S. District Court to serve 45 years in prison, followed by a lifetime of supervised release.

Court documents show Hager and Mueller traded emails and shared images over a peer-to-peer network, as well as exchanged packages by mail.

When investigators searched Hager’s home to seek evidence of Mueller’s crimes, they uncovered 747 VHS tapes with as many as 4,400 hours of tape that contained images of child pornography.

The possession charge against Hager carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Additionally, receiving the materials carries a penalty of between five and 20 years in prison.

A sentencing hearing for Hager has been set for Jan. 4 in Fargo.