A Wilkesboro man awaiting trial in Wilkes Superior Court for 46 juvenile sex crimes was found guilty of child pornography in Statesville District Court Thursday.
A jury found 50-year-old Michael Scott Hoover guilty of two production counts and one count of child pornography possession. US District Judge Kenneth D. Bell chaired the two-day trial.
A date for the conviction has not been set, but child pornography production carries a mandatory 15 to 30 year sentence per count and a fine of $ 250,000. Possession of child pornography carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $ 250,000. Hoover is in federal detention in Mecklenburg Federal Prison in Charlotte as he awaits conviction in federal court.
According to court documents, evidence and witnesses to the trial, between June 2018 and August 2019, Hoover produced child pornography twice using two minors to engage in sexually explicit behavior and recorded it on his work phone.
A witness testified that an internal investigation by Wells Fargo, Hoover’s former employer, found the child pornography on his work cell phone. Hoover worked in information technology (IT) for Wells Fargo. Videos and photos of underage men aged 12 and over who were sexually explicit were recovered from the phone, according to evidence in the study.
William T. Stetzer, acting US attorney for the western district of North Carolina, praised the investigative work of the Wilkes Sheriff’s Office, the SBI and the Homeland Security Investigations in the Hoover case. It became part of Project Safe Childhood, a state-wide federal initiative that addresses the sexual exploitation and abuse of children.
Hoover is due to be tried in the Wilkes County Superior Court session on May 3rd on related state charges. These include 23 cases of sexual exploitation of a second degree minor, 19 cases of indecent liberties with a child, and two cases per attempted legal sexual offense and first degree sexual offense.
34th District Attorney General Matthew Leach, Assistant District Attorney, said Hoover’s conviction in federal court did not prevent the prosecutor’s office from proceeding to the Wilkes Superior Court. “However, we will look into when the federal case is closed.”
Child pornography charges often result in higher penalties in federal courts than in state courts.
The Wilkes Sheriff’s office arrested Hoover in August 2019 on his initial sex crime charge, which included four victims. In November 2019, additional state charges were brought in connection with crimes involving three other juveniles.
Det. Nancy Graybeal, of the Wilkes Sheriff’s Office, said three years ago that some of the state charges against Hoover concerned video and photo images of a 17-year-old who had sexually committed sexual acts in Wilkes from June to August 2018, resulting in two cases of first-degree sex offenses from acts in Wilkes involving a victim under the age of 16 from 2017 to August 2019.
The State Bureau of Investigation filed one of the indecent liberties, legal sex offenses, and second-degree sexual exploitation charges for crimes involving a victim in Yancey County. The SBI charged Hoover with eight other indecent freedoms with a child over crimes that involved three of the four original victims, she said. Six of these cases involved crime in Wilkes and one in Forsyth and Watauga, she said.
According to Graybeal, teenagers identified as victims came into contact with Hoover in various situations. Another sheriff’s spokesman described all of the victims as “family acquaintances” but not as Hoover’s relatives. The investigation began after at least one victim told an adult what had happened and this was reported to law enforcement.
Hoover has been in custody since his arrest, including in the Mecklenburg district prison since October 2020. The bonds set for him in four counties total $ 1,225,000.
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