By Brian Maass

ARVADA, Colo. (CBS4) – A veteran Arvada firefighter/paramedic is facing nine counts of felony exploitation of children after investigators say they caught him trading child pornography images online.

Michael Gowey (credit: CBS)

Police arrested Michael Gowey on March 9. They say he had been masquerading as a woman online – ‘Jen Thomas’ – in his quest to receive and send child porn videos and pictures. The Arvada Fire Protection District, where Gowey worked since 2011, allowed him to resign March 12.

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“We had no idea what was going on,” said Arvada Fire Chief Jon Greer.

Greer said as soon as he learned what Gowey was arrested for, the firefighter was allowed to leave the department.

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“I can’t believe a firefighter would do that. Guys out at the stations wonder what they missed,” he said.

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According to an arrest affidavit obtained by CBS4, the Gowey arrest stemmed from  a similar arrest in Tennessee. Homeland security agents in Nashville arrested a man there last August in a child pornography case. They say they found the man had been in contact with a person who was using the screen name “softballgrl32” who said her name was Jen Thomas.

“During the chat, ‘softballgrl32’ sent 14 images of child exploitation to (the man in Tennessee) including four of the supposed 6-year-old niece,” Greer said.

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Investigators say “Jen Thomas” was hoping to receive an Amazon gift card in exchange for her photos.

But Tennessee investigators soon traced “softballgrl32’s” address to the Lakewood home of Gowey.

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On Nov. 7, Homeland Security agents executed a search warrant at Gowey’s home. Initially, agents say Gowey denied any knowledge of what they were looking into and called the images “grotesque.” He told investigators, “anyone who sexually abused children should go to jail.”

Soon after, agents confronted Gowey with more evidence of his involvement and they say he “admitted he made a mistake. Michael went on to admit he used the Kik application to both send and receive sexually exploitative material. Michael stated that it was ‘Just one or two times, I think. I don’t remember to be honest with you.'”

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Investigators say Gowey confessed he was “softballgrl32,” but offered no explanation for why he posed as a woman. They say his high school football uniform bore the number 32. He told authorities he never received an Amazon gift card for the images he sent and he denied every touching a child or thinking about touching a child sexually.

Gowey was arrested and posted a $40,000 bond.

His attorney, Lisa Wayne, declined to discuss the case saying, “I never make a comment outside the courtroom.” She went on to say the case is just beginning and she did not have much information.

Gowey is due back in court in April.

CBS4 Investigator Brian Maass has been with the station more than 30 years uncovering waste, fraud and corruption. Follow him on Twitter @Briancbs4.

Comments
  1. The ones they catch are the idiots. There is a whole world of this schite online using TOR that anyone can access for free instantly and securely. THEY are producers and distributors, THEY know what they are doing and how to hide their identity. People like this guy are simpletons that are worth nothing. Not even low hanging fruit, more like rotting fruit on the ground.