There’s not much doubt that Michael Carey Clemans had a thing for young girls.
By the time federal agents finished combing through digital devices seized from his family home in Sacramento, they found 27,469 images of child pornography, court documents say.
An airline pilot who lived in Bangkok, Thailand, Clemans preyed on girls as young as 7, paying associates overseas to take sexually explicit photos of his victims and conspiring to travel to the Philippines to rape the ones he found particularly desirable, federal prosecutors say.
“He tried to protect his identity,” prosecutors say in court documents. “He avoided hotels with security cameras. He devoted incalculable hours on his criminal work.”
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On Tuesday morning, Clemans is scheduled to be sentenced in U.S. District Court in Sacramento following his September conviction in an international child pornography and sex case.
His lawyer is asking U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez to give Clemans a break, arguing that his client has accepted responsibility for his actions and after his arrest helped agents ensnare two associates in the Philippines.
The government has a different request: life in prison.
“Clemans committed unspeakable acts in pursuit of his sexual obsession with children,” said McGregor Scott, U.S. attorney for the Sacramento-based Eastern District of California. “He is a sophisticated offender who leveraged technology and the economic disadvantages of the Filipino children he targeted to commit his crimes.”
Prosecutors say in court documents filed last week that Clemans is among the worst such offenders.
“By any standard, Clemans’ criminal conduct in this case is severe,” Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andre Espinosa and Colleen Kennedy argue in a sentencing memorandum. “Indeed, only a small number of child exploitation cases in any federal district include conduct and facts as lurid, willful and disturbing as those in this case.”
Clemans was working with a Filipino associate, Lyan Tandeg, who was to procure young girls for Clemans to have sex with, court documents say.
“Clemans was particularly interested in young virgins...,” court documents say, and he paid Tandeg more than $5,000 to buy a digital camera and computer equipment to use in photographing the victims.
Clemans instructed Tandeg to focus on finding girls whose parents wouldn’t be around to pose a problem, prosecutors say, “to locate girls who were orphans, victims of typhoons or were otherwise vulnerable.”
According to prosecutors, Clemans’ downfall began in 2014, when investigators detected his activities while he was using a Yahoo.com account and the company reported him for suspicious activities. That got him placed on an FBI/Homeland Security watch list, and when he flew into San Francisco International Airport in April 2015 federal agents selected him for a secondary screening.
During that process, he allowed U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents to search his iPad and other devices and they discovered child pornography, court papers say.
He was arrested on state charges and released on bond, but even then could not stop, according to prosecutors.
“Multiple times in May 2015, Clemans logged onto his Yahoo! account from an IP address that traced back to his mother’s home, where he was residing during the pendency of his state criminal proceedings,” court documents say. “During those chat sessions, Clemans told Tandeg about his arrest and told her that if convicted, he would not live in the United States anymore.
“He said he wanted to have sex with Tandeg and the minor girls featured in the child pornography she was creating at his instruction.”
That led federal agents to search the Clemans Sacramento home in July 2015 and his eventual indictment.
While he awaited trial, Clemans provided agents with the password for his Yahoo! account, and they began an undercover probe that led to child exploitation charges against Tandeg and another associate in the Philippines, court documents say.
He went to trial last August, and on the first day pleaded guilty to conspiracy to produce child pornography, attempted production of child pornography and receipt of child pornography. His trial on three remaining counts continued, and included testimony from three victims who were brought over from the Philippines who were 7, 9 and 10 at the time they posed in sexually explicit photos taken for Clemans, court documents say.
The jury convicted him in September on three additional counts of attempted travel for illicit sexual conduct, conspiracy to travel for illicit sexual conduct and buying of children.
The buying of children charge carries the steepest penalty: from 30 years to life.
Clemans’ Palo Alto attorney, Daniel Olmos, argued in court papers that his client’s assistance in the case after his arrest saved some children overseas and that the judge should order a sentence below the 30-year minimum.
“Clemans is precisely the type of person for whom a life sentence exists, a remorseless child-sex predator who poses an urgent, persistent and grievous risk to all children for the rest of his life,” the argued in court papers.
The Clemans case is one of several significant prosecutions that have come from a 12-year-old crackdown by the Justice Department through a program called Project Safe Childhood that began in the Eastern District of California while Scott was serving as U.S. attorney previously in the George W. Bush administration.
The program’s success led to the Justice Department adopting the effort and targeting offenders nationwide and overseas, and Scott is planning a news conference Tuesday afternoon to highlight such cases.
Just last Thursday, prosecutors in Sacramento announced the indictment of a New Jersey man, Michael Anaya-Otero, 21, on charges of producing child pornography and traveling to Rocklin to have sex with a 13-year-old seventh-grade girl.
The same day, U.S. District Judge Troy Nunley sentenced a Sacramento man, Jeffrey Miles Hayes, 55, to 33 years in prison for receiving child pornography.
And on Friday a jury found James Jay Hitt, 49, of Anderson, guilty of receiving child pornography, distributing child pornography and three counts of possessing child pornography.