On Thursday, August 27, 2015, working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation Violent Crimes Against Children task force, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrested 56-year-old Max Lee Fenstermaker, 2939 Elm Street NW, Winter Haven, charging him with 5 Counts - Use a Computer to Solicit a Minor (F3), 1 Count - Transmission of Harmful Material to a Minor (F3), and 6 Counts - Use of a Two-Way communication Device to Facilitate a Felony (F3). The Lakeland Police Department, the Winter Haven Police Department and the Haines City Police Department assisted in this investigation as part of a local FBI taskforce.
The investigation began in June 2015, after the FBI VCAC task force was contacted by the New Zealand Police requesting assistance in locating a man who had exchanged sexually explicit texts and graphic images with a 9-year-old girl in their jurisdiction. In March 2015, the child’s father had discovered his daughter had been chatting with “a man named ‘Mac’ who lived in Florida” via an online social media app for approximately three months. Investigators determined “Mac” was Max Fenstermaker who resided in Winter Haven.
During the initial stages of the investigation it was learned on or about March 3, 2015, Fenstermaker became aware of the victim's young age, and during the conversation stated to the victim that she was "beautiful for only nine years old." From January 2015 through March 2015, Fenstermaker transmitted multiple messages containing sexually explicit images of himself, along with multiple sexually explicit text conversations to the victim.
The FBI contacted the PCSO requesting assistance in the investigation. At approximately 7:10 am, on Thursday, August 27th, PCSO computer crimes detectives assisted the FBI in executing a warrant for Fenstermaker’s residence. Fenstermaker was taken into custody without incident and detectives located multiple electronic devices to include an Android smart phone containing the social media app LINK.
During an interview with Fenstermaker, detectives learned Fenstermaker had chatted with other underage females using the same app.
Fenstermaker admitted to chatting with a nine (9) year-old female on Link, telling detectives he exchanged videos and pictures with the girl even after she advised she was only nine (9) years old. Fenstermaker stated "I figured if she was willing I kept asking."
“This is a perfect example of how easily a child can be exploited through the Internet – strangers are not just people you don’t know in your neighborhood, they are predators who seek child victims online. The combined efforts of the New Zealand Police, the FBI VCAC task force, the FBI Tampa-Lakeland Office, and PCSO Computer Crimes detectives, worked as one team to ensure this predator was stopped and is held accountable for his criminal behavior.” Sheriff Grady Judd.
Fenstermaker will be held without bond until first appearance, expected today, Friday, August 28, 2015.
The investigation is ongoing.