A Billings woman who admitted to getting paid to make children available for filming in sexually explicit movies pleaded guilty to child pornography charges in U.S. District Court in Billings on Wednesday.
Michelle Marie Sipes, 44, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the receipt of child porn as charged in a superseding information.
A plea agreement calls for a joint recommendation of 10 years in prison, which is in the middle of the guideline range. Sipes faces a minimum mandatory five years to 20 years and a maximum $250,000 fine.
Sipes initially was indicted on conspiracy to sexually exploit children, a crime that carries a mandatory minimum of 15 years to 30 years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine. The agreement calls for the indictment to be dismissed at sentencing.
The investigation began in 2009 when the FBI in Mobile, Ala., found three videotapes of possible child porn, Assistant U.S. Attorney Marcia Hurd said. Two of the videos showed two individuals, Ricky Smith and Denise Ward, sexually assaulting children, she said.
Ward was convicted in Texas for her role in the child porn, while Smith was convicted of similar charges in Alabama. Both are serving federal sentences.
Smith, Hurd said, told investigators that he had paid Sipes for the opportunity to take sexually explicit movies of children then in her care from 2001 until 2004.
Sipes corroborated most of Smith’s information when interviewed by investigators in 2009 and said she’d been given cash and a refrigerator by Smith and Ward, Hurd said. But Sipes denied having an agreement with them to be compensated for making the children available, she said.
Sipes said Smith and Ward took the children shopping for clothes and toys and that the children spent time alone with the pair at their hotel reportedly to go swimming. Smith and Ward also had cameras and would take pictures of Sipes and the children.
During a second interview, Sipes confessed to having an agreement with Smith and Ward to allow them to take sexually explicit movies of the children in exchange for cash, Hurd said.
Senior U.S. District Judge Jack Shanstrom set sentencing for Dec. 21. Sipes remains in custody.