Federal Agent: John Balyo was “well on his way” to abducting a child

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- John Balyo was sentenced to 40 years in prison Thursday for sex crimes involving children.

Balyo, 35, was sentenced to 25 years for a  charge of sexual exploitation of a child and 15 years for possession and production of child pornography.

Balyo's sentence includes a lifetime of supervised release after prison. The former WCSG radio host will also pay $8,500 in restitution to the victims. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell told Balyo those victims will never fully recover from what he's done to them. Bell said that is something Balyo will have to live with.

Prior to sentencing, Balyo told the judge he wants to be rehabilitated and help others who may be hiding similar "addictions."

However, the federal prosecutor told the judge Balyo isn't a safe person to have out in the community. She referenced the beginning of the case, when investigators found Balyo's storage unit filled with things like a bondage kit and a collection of newspaper articles on abducted children and serial killers.

He also had notebooks containing numerous boys’ names and notations about them, photographs of nude children, DVDs and computer equipment, among other items.

It also came out in court Thursday that a dog cage, containing a mannequin representing a young boy that was tied up, was also found inside the storage unit.

Judge Bell said Balyo had enough stuff in storage that lead him to believe Balyo would've continued this behavior for quite some time had he not been caught.

Patrick Miles Jr., United States Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, said the case had elements of a sex trafficking case even though it wasn't prosecuted as one.

"These cases are all disturbing because you really don't like to see a child being harmed. Having their innocence stolen really is something that we in this office, the U.S. Attorney's Office, are aggressively prosecuting," Miles said. "We've had just this year alone approximately 20 convictions of child exploitation. That's accumulating of almost 300 years of prison sentences."

In November 2013, Balyo met Ronald Moser online. According to the Department of Justice, the two started emailing about their sexual interests in young boys.

Balyo arranged to meet Moser and a 12-year-old boy three times in April and May 2014 in Battle Creek and Kalamazoo hotels.  The duo sexually assaulted and photographed the boy, according to court records, on all three occasions. It's also documented that Balyo gave the child money for his "modeling career."

Balyo was arrested in June while hosting a music festival in Gaylord, Mich. with his radio station.  Homeland Security Investigations and Michigan Sate Police began the search of Balyo's storage unit and found multiple photographs of child pornography, including the ones from the Kalamazoo hotel room.

In November, Balyo was sentenced to between 25 and 50 years behind bars after pleading guilty to first-degree criminal sexual conduct in Calhoun County.

Moser pleaded guilty in August to producing and possessing child pornography. He's scheduled to be sentenced in late December.

Miles said when it comes to federal sentences they're extremely long.

"That's a message that we really want to get out. We want these predators to know that they're looking at potential of up to 40 to 50 years," Miles said.

Kenny Duke, resident agent in charge of HSI, said Balyo's case is top three of the most heinous crimes he's ever seen. He said what was found inside Balyo's storage locker led him to believe that Balyo was "well on his way" to abducting a child.

"He had clippings of previous abductions, hundreds of them, child obituaries, there was a book on how to get away with possessing child pornography and then there was what we called the kidnapping rape kit in the brief case...it was very disturbing," Duke said.

Federal investigators have described the former Christian radio host as a "wolf in sheep's clothing" who was “living a double life.”

Duke said it's not something commonly seen in these types of cases.

"He's quite an exception, on the outside he's a model citizen. To me, that's the scariest part about him," Duke said. "You could look at him and know his record and think this is a guy that my kids would be safe around."

Judge Bell said he had trouble reconciling the two people Balyo has portrayed himself as. During the sentencing he even asked Balyo, "What person am I looking at?"

A representative for the victim's family read a statement prior to Balyo's sentencing and spoke about the anguish Balyo's actions have caused their family.

Both state and federal sentences will be served simultaneously.

Duke said he's confident there are no other victims based off the forensic exams done on Balyo's media.

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