A supervisor with the U.S. Homeland Security Department whose responsibilities include preventing the spread of child pornography was charged Wednesday with possessing child porn.
Federal agents accused Steven Metz, 40, a supervisor with U.S. Customs & Border Protection and an expert on anti-terrorism investigations, of felony child porn possession after seizing two computers from his home in Hamburg.
An investigation conducted earlier this year produced evidence that Metz had received emails containing child porn from a man in Phoenix, Assistant U.S. Attorney Marie P. Grisanti said.
The federal complaint against Metz accuses him of “both receiving and distributing” child porn. It outlines in vivid detail the still images and videos of adult men and underage children, some as young as three or four, that were allegedly found in emails sent to Metz.
Metz is being held without bail and is on administrative leave from his job with Customs & Border Protection.
“Please don’t put me on the CBP [Customs & Border Protection] Wall of Shame,” Metz told his supervisor, according to the complaint. “I have 16 years of service. I am hoping you can do that. I’m sorry for the embarrassment. I love coming to work.”
A source close to Metz’s family said he is a nationally recognized expert on terrorism-related smuggling and detecting hidden terrorist devices at border crossings.
“He has traveled all over the country, and even all over the world, to lecture police,” the source said Wednesday.
Authorities told The Buffalo News that Metz’s home on Richwood Drive was raided Oct. 25 by investigators from Immigration & Customs Enforcement, an agency allied with Customs & Border Protection under the umbrella of Homeland Security.
At a Wednesday evening news conference, U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. said, “Somewhere along the line there was a real child involved. There are real victims, real children that were photographed.”
One day after the raid, Metz drove his car past a closed railroad safety barrier in Blasdell and onto railroad tracks, where it was struck by an oncoming freight train, law enforcement officials told The News.
The train struck the rear of Metz’s car, which was demolished, and Metz “unbelievably” survived without major injuries, one official told The News.
Blasdell Police Lt. Joseph Gramaglia declined to comment when asked if the incident at a Lake Avenue railroad crossing was considered a suicide attempt, but he said police learned that the driver “made a turn to get around the barriers” that had come down to prevent vehicles from crossing the railroad tracks,
He said the driver then drove his vehicle onto the tracks, directly into the path of an oncoming train.
“The driver suffered minor injuries and was transported to the Erie County Medical Center for treatment,” Gramaglia said.
While Gramaglia declined to identify the driver by name, other law enforcement officials identified him as Metz. They also told The News that, shortly after the train-car crash, federal agents showed up. Authorities said Metz has been receiving psychiatric treatment since the incident.
“I’m not going to comment on that,” Jeremy D. Schwartz, Metz’s lawyer, said of the reports of a suicide attempt. “He’s been discharged from [ECMC.] He was discharged this morning,”
Metz appeared in federal court Wednesday before Magistrate Judge Jeremiah J. McCarthy and was using a walker.
Schwartz said Metz denies the allegations against him. He declined to comment on why Metz was using the walker or on the reports that he was undergoing psychiatric treatment.
Metz’s wife, Lori, was “totally unaware” of any possible connection between her husband and child porn, adding that she is “shocked and devastated” over the charges filed against her husband, a source close to the family said Wednesday.
“She knew nothing about this until she arrived at her home one day last month and found dozens of federal agents combing through the home, looking for computers, cellphones and evidence,” said the source, who contacted The News after a reporter tried to reach the Metz family. “She is not a target of this investigation.”
The Metzes have two young children, the source said.
Metz was a supervisor who worked out of offices at the Peace Bridge, where Customs & Border Protection officers have arrested numerous child pornography suspects.