Federal Grand Jury indicts former SLTFD Capt. Mark Wygant
SACRAMENTO — A Federal Grand Jury returned a six-count indictment Thursday against former South Lake Tahoe Fire Department (SLTFD) Capt. Mark McLeod Wygant, 44, in place of a single federal charge filed Jan. 30.
The indictment charges Wygant with sexual exploitation and attempted sexual exploitation of minors, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner stated in a press release Thursday.
According to an FBI affidavit, from early 2011 to early 2012, Wygant surreptitiously filmed a child on numerous occasions using a hidden iPhone and “spy cameras” that he had purchased.
The affidavit accused Wygant of obtaining or producing child pornography material that included more than 5,000 images and 500 video files. The document alleges that some of the victims were between 4-and-13 years old.
Wygant had been placed on paid administrative leave by the city of South Lake Tahoe following his arrest, but resigned after an investigation into the allegations was completed within days of Wygant’s arrest.
The initial charges and subsequent indictment followed an investigation by the FBI and the South Lake Tahoe Police Department after a flash drive was found in an unassigned locker at a SLTFD Station containing the child pornography.
Assistant United States Attorney Matthew G. Morris is prosecuting the case, the press release stated.
Wygant has been in custody since his arrest on Jan. 29 by FBI agents. He is scheduled to be arraigned on Monday before Judge Carolyn K. Delaney. A preliminary hearing previously scheduled for Friday was vacated.
If convicted, Wygant faces a maximum statutory penalty of 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine per count. Any count of conviction would carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison.
Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and federal sentencing guidelines, which take into account a number of variables, according to the press release.
The case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse, according to the press release. The initiative is led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices, the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section and Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources. It aims to locate, apprehend and prosecute those who sexually exploit children and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, visit http://www.usdoj.gov/psc. Click on the “resources” tab for information about Internet safety education.