Local

I-TEAM: FBI investigating possible child porn related to search warrant at Eaton businessman’s home

PREBLE COUNTY — Correction: Our I-Team mentioned in Thursday’s report several businesses that Hatmaker and his companies owned. Since that story aired, we learned one of those businesses mentioned, Bombshell Tanning, is not owned by Hatmaker. Instead, Bombshell Tanning’s owners rent space in a building owned by Hatmaker.

New documents obtained by the News Center 7 I-Team show for months, the FBI has been investigating possible child pornography in Preble County. And the I-Team has learned a man who owns at least four businesses in Eaton is connected to the case.

>>PREVIOUS COVERAGE: FBI agents conduct search warrant at Preble County home as part of ‘ongoing investigation’

Investigators have not charged anyone yet, but News Center 7 first told you last month about an FBI search warrant at a house just outside Eaton on June 24.

Now, the I-Team can report the new details we’ve uncovered after weeks of digging into this case, including why FBI agents and Preble County deputies raided that home earlier this summer, the troubling tip that led them there, and who they’re investigating.

Dash camera video obtained by the News Center 7 I-Team shows deputies and federal agents at a home on Bantas Creek Road on June 24 searching for evidence.

The week after the raid in late June, Preble County Sheriff Mike Simpson wouldn’t say much. “I can let you know we assisted the FBI on a search warrant at a residence in the county and that we have an ongoing investigation with the FBI,” Simpson told the I-Team in a phone interview at the time. “And that’s really all I can release at this point in time.”

>>I-TEAM: Home healthcare worker accused of sexually abusing elderly woman with disabilities

Neighbors who witnessed the raid identified the house for the I-Team and we ran Preble County property records which show the home is owned by Ernest Hatmaker. Public records show that Hatmaker and his companies own various properties and businesses around Eaton.

The I-Team filed a public records request asking for any Preble County Sheriff’s Office reports mentioning Hatmaker or his home address. What came back was a document detailing an investigation of “pornography or obscene material,” possibly involving the “illegal use of a minor in nudity.”

Per Ohio law, because no one has been charged, the suspect’s name has been redacted from the report.

The I-Team’s Lead Investigative Reporter, John Bedell, called Hatmaker and his attorney. They both declined to comment.

>>More investigations from the News Center 7 I-Team

According to the report, the case originated when an Internet Crimes Against Children, or ICAC, Task Force contacted detectives with the Preble County Sheriff’s Office in February regarding “the sharing of potential child pornography via the Kik app,” and forwarded deputies “a total of six videos.”

The document says Kik provided deputies with an IP address and email for the account user. Then, the internet provider gave detectives the name on that account, which ultimately led to the search of the home on Bantas Creek Road on June 24.

The I-Team checked at the federal courthouse in downtown Dayton for any records of this case at all, including that search warrant. So far, nothing has been filed publicly. That likely means the documents have been sealed. That can be common in an ongoing investigation.

The FBI told the I-Team, currently, no one has been arrested or charged in connection with the probe that had law enforcement at the house on Bantas Creek Road in June.

Preble County Sheriff Mike Simpson declined to comment for this report, citing the fact that his office is still helping the FBI with an active and ongoing investigation.

News Center 7 will keep following this case and bring you new information as we get it.

If you have a tip for the News Center 7 I-Team, call our tip line at (937)-259-2143.

Win $1,000 with WHIO Radio's Payroll Payoff Contest

Latest Trending