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Man imprisoned for hiding camera in girl’s changing room faces new charges

Investigators say Richard Schmeling, a convicted sex offender, sent explicit photos of a child to an undercover FBI agent.
Credit: Kent County Jail
Richard Schmeling faces between 15-30 years in prison if convicted of sexual exploitation of a child.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A Kent County man who went to prison for hiding a smart phone in the ceiling of a girl’s changing room is now accused of taking sexually explicit photos of a 7-year-old girl and trading the images online.

Richard Donald Schmeling had been off parole only a few months when the latest offenses occurred. He was indicted this week on three charges, including sexual exploitation of a child and distribution of child pornography.

Federal investigators accuse him of sending sexually explicit photos to a man he met on the Internet, unaware the man was actually an undercover federal officer.

He was arrested Dec. 30 during a search at his home on Bellevue Street SW near Buchanan Avenue. Schmeling, 34, was initially booked into the Kent County Jail but has since been turned over to federal custody.

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He is scheduled to be in federal court in Grand Rapids on Friday, Jan. 10.

Schmeling made headlines in 2013 when he was accused of hiding a smart phone in the ceiling of the girl’s changing room at Ada Dance Academy.

He was convicted of three felonies, including capturing/distributing images of an unclothed person and using a computer to commit a crime.

A judge sentenced him to prison; Schmeling was discharged from the Department of Corrections on Jan. 31, 2019.

In the most recent case, Schmeling came to the attention of police during an investigation involving a website where users discuss and trade child pornography, federal court records show.

An undercover officer posing as a 33-year-old father was contacted by Schmeling, who “asked if he wanted to trade daughters’ panties pictures,’’ court records show.

Schmeling sent the undercover officer two images of children’s underwear and later, pictures of a girl wearing princess underwear with her buttocks partially exposed, court records show.

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A later picture shows the same child lying on her stomach with an adult male hand touching her buttocks on top of her underwear, court records show. In subsequent photos, a man’s hand is seen pulling a child’s underwear to the side, exposing the child’s genital area and buttocks.

Schmeling, unaware he was corresponding with an undercover officer, also requested sexually explicit photos. Perhaps most disturbing were statements Schmeling made to the undercover officer detailing sexual assaults Schmeling says he has made on the girl since she was five years old.

Federal investigators on Dec. 30 got a search warrant for Schmeling’s home in Wyoming. Schmeling was arrested and held in the Kent County Jail before being transferred to federal custody.

The sexual exploitation charge is punishable by between 15 and 30 years in prison while distribution of child pornography is punishable by between five and 20 years.

Schmeling is on the Michigan Public Sex Offender Registry; his registration end date is currently listed as December of 2031.

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