A local musician who used the Internet to build a large fan following is facing major jail time for misusing the Internet and sexually exploiting teen girls.
25-year-old Michael Lombardo of Rome pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Syracuse to one count of receiving child pornography after admitting to having a sexually explicit online chat with a 15-year-old girl in 2011.
Lombardo, who court papers say developed a â??following of female teenage fans on YouTubeâ??, was accused of engaging in an online video chat with the girl and requesting that she perform sexual acts for him â?? to which she complied.
He was also accused of possessing images and videos of child pornography involving other underage girls, some of whom were fans, including a girl who attended a school in Rome where he worked.
Police say they searched Lombardoâ??s home in December 2011 and discovered 10 videos and 63 photos on his computers and phone. He was arrested in July 2012.
In a plea deal with prosecutors, Lombardo admitted exchanging sexual messages and images with six different girls from 2009-2011. He indicated in his messages that he was aware he was breaking the law, and showed concern for getting caught. An excerpt from one text message conversation backs up that claim:
Lombardo: â??thatâ??s like 5 years in federal prison and sex offender registrationâ??
Lombardo: â??until youâ??re 18. Lol.â??
Girl: â??also you once (later) said it was only illegal if we were actually doing stuff togetherâ??
Girl: â??(which is actually not true because at 16 in Ohio that wouldnâ??t have been)â??
Lombardo: â??well. Child porn is bad.â??
Girl: â??yea, I know thatâ??
Girl: â??as in corruption of a minor, no?â??
Lombardo: â??as in jail big timeâ??
In return for the guilty plea, prosecutors agreed not to seek other federal charges in the case.
Lombardoâ??s YouTube channel, â??MikeLombardoMusicâ??, is now closed. However, a music video posted to another account of him singing â??Hey Mollyâ?? and playing the piano is attached to this article.
Lombardo has been released on a personal recognizance bond pending sentencing on January 24. He faces a maximum of 5 to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and probation. He also has to forfeit his computers and register as a sex offender.