Editor’s note: Some readers may find the subject matter of this report disturbing.
HANNA – Michael Eugene Pipher, a firefighter with the Carbon County Fire Department for the past 20 years, was arrested on Tuesday for possessing child pornography.
According to court records, a months-long investigation conducted by the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigations led to the execution of a search warrant on Pipher’s property in Hanna.
There, investigators obtained three electronic devices, some of which contained “hundreds of files” depicting child pornography.
During a subsequent interview with investigators that day, Pipher said he had not been viewing the material for very long; however, he later admitted to “struggling with this for months.”
Pipher, 63, first came under suspicion following undercover operations related to the file sharing program BitTorrent P2P network in April, which later linked Pipher’s IP address to several child pornography downloads.
After investigators explained the reason for the search warrant, Pipher admitted that he knew why he was under investigation.
“Stuff has been showing up on my Android,” he said. “It’s child porn.”
Pipher also told investigators that he was using “torrents to get the files.”
“(The) defendant admitted to ‘stripping’ or factory resetting the tablet computer on numerous occasions and hard reset the device because he was ‘scared it was on there,’” according to court records. “(The) defendant had continued to reinstall the file sharing program and continued downloading child pornography, stating, ‘It’s like an addiction sometimes.’”
According to court records, Pipher said he has never touched minors inappropriately.
Pipher has been charged with six felony counts of sexual exploitation of children, which pose up to 64 years in prison and $60,000 in fines.
A preliminary hearing for Pipher is set for 4 p.m. Sept. 3 in Carbon County Circuit Court.
According to Carbon County Fire Warden John Rutherford, Pipher will likely “not be allowed to stay on the fire department.”
“We do background checks on all our firefighters,” said Rutherford. “And we’re going to let the judicial system take its course.”
The Rawlins Times will provide further updates as they unfold.