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Former boy scout official gets 30 years in prison for having child porn, filming kids changing

thomas close mugshot
Posted at 1:16 PM, Jan 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-15 13:16:03-05

CLEVELAND — A former Richland County Boy Scout official who filmed children changing and had terabytes of child pornography has been sentenced to spend the next 30 years behind bars.

Thomas Close, 49, of Shelby, was sentenced in federal court Wednesday. He was also ordered to pay $949 in restitution and $300 in other fees.

“It is difficult to imagine a more heinous crime, particularly when the ages and youthful experiences of children were so calculatingly exploited,” said U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman. “If we have not made it clear before, let this sentence send a message to all who seek to prey on our children: there is no place we cannot find you and we will bring you to justice.”

Close was known as "Aqua Joe" due to having been a swim instructor in addition to having served as a troop leader.

Previously, Close admitted to authorities to having five terabytes of child pornography on his computer. In November 2018, authorities said they searched Close's home and located a bathroom that matched one of the videos that prompted the investigation.

The crimes were believed to have taken place in Ohio between 2011 and 2018. Authorities said Close used his position as a scout leader to record children changing and then sent the files back to his home computer where he kept the videos in "carefully labeled folders and file structures."

“This individual used his position and regular access to children to exploit the young people who he was entrusted to take care of and protect,” said Vance Callender, HSI special agent in charge for Michigan and Ohio. “While no amount of prison time is sufficient for the depraved abuse of trust by Mr. Close on his innocent victims, hopefully, today’s sentencing can begin the healing process for all of those impacted.”

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