Herdman, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio,
announced today that a federal grand jury sitting in Cleveland, Ohio has
returned an eight-count indictment against Robert D. McWilliams, age
40, of Strongsville. The defendant is charged with two counts of Sex
Trafficking of a Minor, three counts of Sexual Exploitation of Children,
one count of Transportation of Child Pornography, one count of Receipt
and Distribution of Visual Depictions of Real Minors Engaged In Sexually
Explicit Conduct and one count of Possession of Child Pornography.
“Today’s indictment reflect the serious and elaborate nature of the
acts allegedly taken by the defendant to traffic and exploit local area
children,” said U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman. “The alleged acts
committed in this case are a disturbing and strong reminder for parents
to be vigilant about who their children talk to and what they do
“Allegations of child exploitation against a trusted member of the
religious community has long-term reverberations beyond just the
criminal acts of the accused," said Vance Callender, special agent in
charge of HSI Detroit. "Identifying people who violate their positions
of public trust will always be a priority for those in HSI that
investigate child exploitation."
According to court documents, from 2017-2019, McWilliams engaged in
sexually explicit conduct and behavior involving minors. McWilliams
pretended to be a female on social media applications, which he used to
make contact with minor male victims. Allegedly, certain of
McWilliams’s victims were young boys McWilliams knew because he served
as a priest in parishes with which these children and their families
Posing as a female, McWilliams allegedly enticed the minor male
victims to send sexually explicit photographs and videos, sometimes
threatening to expose embarrassing information McWilliams already knew
about the victims if they did not send such images. At times,
McWilliams is alleged to have threatened to send those photographs to
family and friends if the minor male victims did not send additional
photographs and videos. McWilliams is also alleged to have followed
through on this threat by sending the mothers sexually explicit
photographs he received from minor male victims.
The affidavit also alleges that McWilliams was in possession of,
received or distributed approximately 1,700 images and videos of child
pornography and approximately 150 files of child pornography in a
Dropbox cloud storage account.
Additionally, McWilliams is alleged to have used the social
networking website Grindr.com to make contact with a minor male victim
for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex. McWilliams allegedly met
the victim on multiple occasions and, in exchange for sex, paid the
victim for each act.
Anyone with knowledge of McWilliams’s contact with children should contact Homeland Security Investigations at (216) 749-9602.
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. Each
defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the
government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
If convicted, the defendant’s sentence will be determined by the
Court after a review of factors unique to this case, including the
defendant’s prior criminal records, if any, the defendant’s role in the
offense and the characteristics of the violation. In all cases, the
sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum and, in most cases, it
will be less than the maximum.
This investigation is being conducted by the Department of Homeland
Security, Homeland Security Investigations, with assistance from the
Geauga County Prosecutor’s Office and Ohio Internet Crimes Against
Children (“ICAC”) Task Force. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant
U.S. Attorneys Carol M. Skutnik and Bridget M. Brennan.