A New England-based fashion photographer whose work has appeared in catalogs for major clothing brands pleaded guilty to a federal child-pornography charge this month.
Richard Emerich, 53, admitted to federal agents with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service that he distributed lewd photos of boys as young as 12 years old that were taken at several South Florida locations.
In all, federal prosecutors say Emerich distributed more than 600 pornographic images of children.
He was first arrested in his hometown of Brattleboro, Vt., in November, and was transferred to Monroe County to face federal counts of producing and distributing child pornography. He pleaded guilty Jan. 20 to the distribution charge and the U.S. Attorney’s Office dropped the production charge, according to court papers.
Never miss a local story.
Emerich faces a minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum of 20 years, according to his plea agreement. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 1 at 1:30 p.m. at the federal courthouse in West Palm Beach.
Federal agents began investigating Emerich after being told about him by an informer for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The informant, himself a child pornographer, is also a Florida-based talent scout who did regular recruiting for Emerich.
He told his FDLE handlers that he “would book teenage boys to model for Emerich, who would fly to Florida from New England and take both non-nude and nude photographs of the young boys.”
At the direction of FDLE and federal agents, the informant asked Emerich last January to mail photographs of underage boys to Florida. Emerich mailed an external hard drive and a thumb drive, "both containing numerous images of underage boys" to the informant’s home in Jupiter, according to court documents.
The package was intercepted by U.S. Postal Inspection Service agents in February. Inside the package were also business cards with the name and address of Emerich's company RWE Productions.
The first victim the court documents describe modeled for Emerich between 2007 and 2010 on shoots in Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Monroe counties. He was born in 1993, meaning he was 14 when he was photographed for pornography.
The victim told investigating agents he began modeling at the age of 10 and appeared in advertising for JC Penny, Polo and Tommy Hilfiger.
Some of the pornographic shoots he did with Emerich were in the Keys, according to the complaint. From available information, however, it could not be determined if any of his victims lived in the Keys.
In April, the informant contacted an FDLE agent to report Emerich was traveling from Vermont to Florida to photograph boys between the ages of 12 and 16. It's not clear if those images were for legitimate jobs or for pornography, according to the complaint.
In June, Emerich mailed the government informant a package containing an external hard drive on which FDLE agents found "thousands of images of minor boys and age-indeterminate males."
Postal Inspection Service agents obtained a search for Emerich’s apartment on Oct. 29. According to the complaint, they found more than 60 external hard drives. According to a “factual proffer” signed by Emerich and his attorney, he admitted to agents after being read his rights that he took nude photos of the victim when the boy was under 18 and that he was attracted to him.
“He also admitted that he was attracted to both males and females aged 16 through 35,” the court documents read.