A Wilkesboro man awaiting trial in Wilkes Superior Court on 46 felony sex crimes involving juveniles was found guilty of related child pornography charges in U.S. District Court in Statesville Thursday.
A jury found Michael Scott Hoover, 50, guilty of two counts of production and one count of possession of child pornography. U.S. District Judge Kenneth D. Bell presided over the two-day trial.
A sentencing date hasn’t been set, but production of child pornography carries a mandatory sentence of 15 to 30 years in prison per count and a $250,000 fine. Possession of child porn carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Hoover is in federal custody at the Mecklenburg County Jail in Charlotte as he awaits sentencing in federal court.
According to court documents and evidence and witnesses in the trial, Hoover produced child pornography on two occasions between June 2018 and August 2019, by using two minors to engage in sexually explicit conduct and recorded it on his work cell phone.
A witness testified that an internal investigation by Wells Fargo, Hoover’s employer at the time, found the child porn on his work cell phone. Hoover worked in information technology (IT) for Wells Fargo. Videos and photos of minor males as young as 12 engaging in sexually explicit conduct were recovered from the phone, according to evidence in the trial.
William T. Stetzer, acting U.S. attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, commended the investigative work of the Wilkes Sheriff’s Office, SBI and Homeland Security Investigations in the Hoover case. It became part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide federal initiative that addresses child sexual exploitation and abuse.
Hoover is scheduled for trial on the related state charges in the May 3 session of Wilkes County Superior Court. These include 23 counts of second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor, 19 counts of indecent liberties with a child and two counts apiece of attempted statutory sex offense and first-degree sexual offense.
Assistant District Attorney Matthew Leach of the 34th Prosecutorial District said Hoover’s conviction in federal court doesn’t preclude the DA’s office from moving ahead with his cases in Wilkes Superior Court, “but we will evaluate when the federal case is concluded.”
Child pornography charges frequently result in greater penalties in federal court than in state court.
The Wilkes Sheriff’s Office arrested Hoover in August 2019 on his initial sex offenses charges, which involved four victims. In November 2019, more state charges were filed in connection with offenses 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 involved video and photo images of a 17-year-old committing sexual acts in Wilkes from June to August 2018. She said four counts of indecent liberties and two counts of first-degree sex offense resulted from acts in Wilkes involving a victim under age 16 from 2017 through August 2019.
The State Bureau of Investigation filed one each of the indecent liberties, statutory sex offense and second-degree sexual exploitation charges for offenses involving a victim in Yancey County. The SBI charged Hoover with eight more counts of indecent liberties with a child for offenses involving three of the four original victims, she said. Six of these counts were for offenses in Wilkes and one apiece in Forsyth and Watauga, she said.
Graybeal said juveniles identified as victims came in contact with Hoover in a variety of situations. Another sheriff’s office spokesman described all of the victims as “family acquaintances” but not relatives of Hoover. 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 he was arrested, including in the Mecklenburg County Jail since October 2020. Bonds set for him in four counties total $1,225,000.