Santa Ana, California - An Orange County man who coached a Long Beach youth soccer team has been arraigned on a six-count federal indictment that accuses him of possessing and distributing child pornography.
Robert “Bob” Warden Phillips, 65, of Lake Forest, made his initial appearance in federal court Monday and pleaded not guilty to the charges. He was released on a $50,000 bond pending trial, which is slated to begin March 22.
In the fall of 2014, Phillips served as a volunteer for the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO), coaching 12- to 14-year-old girls.
The charges against Phillips are the result of a probe by the multiagency Orange County Child Exploitation Task Force, which is overseen by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
“Fighting the exploitation of children is one of the top priorities of my office,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “In the case of child pornography, victimization takes place when an image is generated and every time it is distributed. We have and will continue to prosecute vigorously individuals who endanger children by creating a market for their victimization.”
The Task Force began investigating Phillips after receiving multiple tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) about sexually explicit images of minors associated with an email address that traced back to the defendant. In June 2015, Task Force investigators executed a search warrant issued by a state court judge at Phillips’ Lake Forest home, at which time they seized three computers, an iPad, an iPhone, and several media devices. The indictment alleges two of the computers and a thumb drive were found to contain images of child pornography.
According to the affidavit filed in support of the search warrant, HSI obtained records of online instant message chats in which the defendant fantasized about young female soccer players and discussed grooming and molesting girls as young as 14.
“This case is particularly disturbing given the defendant’s former position as a coach and his close contact with children,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. “HSI will continue to work closely with its partners on the Task Force to investigate those who sexually exploit young people and ensure that those found guilty of such offenses feel the full weight of the law.”
HSI special agents alerted AYSO’s national office about the allegations and AYSO cooperated fully with the investigation. As soon as AYSO learned of the allegations, the defendant was made ineligible for further service pending the outcome of the case.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
Phillips is charged with three counts of distribution of child pornography and three counts of possession of child pornography. If he was convicted of the six felony offenses, he would face a statutory maximum sentence of 90 years in federal prison. Each count of distribution of child pornography carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison.
At this time, authorities do not have any evidence that Phillips molested any of his players; however, investigators have reason to believe there may be unidentified victims in the case. Task Force investigators are asking anyone who may have information relevant to the investigation to contact HSI’s 24-hour toll free tip line at 1-866-DHS-2ICE (1-866-347-2423) or use the agency’s online tip form. Information may be provided anonymously.
The Orange County Child Exploitation Task Force – which also included investigators from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Newport Beach Police Department, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service – investigates Internet-related crimes against children, as well as crimes involving the possession, production and distribution of child pornography.