ROCHESTER, NEW YORK – U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that a federal grand jury has returned a 74-count indictment charging Philip M. Close, 42, of Rochester, NY, with 61 counts of production of child pornography, and 13 counts of possession of material containing child pornography involving prepubescent minors. The charge carries a mandatory minimum penalty of 15 years in prison, a maximum of life in prison, and a $250,000 fine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Meghan K. McGuire, who is handling the case, stated that the defendant owns the Close School of Music on West Ridge Road in the Town of Parma, which offers private music lessons to children and adults of all ages. Close has been teaching music lessons throughout New York State for over 20 years.
According to the indictment and a previously filed complaint, on December 5, 2019, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office received information from a mother with two children taking lessons at the Close School of Music, that a video camera was attached to the toilet in the bathroom. The parent indicated that earlier that day, while waiting for her child to finish her music lesson, she used the bathroom. While in the bathroom, the mother observed a small black camera lens facing towards the toilet seat, and a small metallic-looking piece hanging from a wire off of the toilet. The mother grabbed and pulled the wires and found a camera-device and wires taped to the bottom of the toilet with black electrical tape. After finding this camera device, she removed it from the bottom of the toilet, and proceeded to contact 911.
A Monroe County Sheriff’s deputy reported to the Close School of Music and spoke with the defendant who acknowledged that the device was his. Close was taken into custody.
On December 6, 2019, a search warrant was executed at the music school and multiple digital computing devices were seized, including a laptop computer. A preliminary review of the laptop located three videos of the child whose parent alerted the Sheriff’s Department. One of the videos included the child using the toilet. Another video shows the child laying down on a piano bench and Close’s leg. The defendant is seen moving the child’s shirt up to expose her stomach and touching her stomach. Close then begins to touch other parts of the child’s body. The child is seen sliding under the piano in what appears to be an attempt to prevent the defendant from touching any further.
Further investigation revealed that the defendant produced videos containing child pornography including a total of 61 minor victims.
Close will be arraigned on December 14, 2020, at 9:30 a.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark W. Pedersen.
The indictment is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Child Exploitation Task Force, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Stephen Belongia; the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, under the direction of Sheriff Todd Baxter; and the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, under the direction of District Attorney Sandra Doorley.
The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.