Local News

International Arrests Made; Children Rescued in Connection to Local Case

Washington County Sheriff’s Office investigators arrested a 35-year-old Village of Newburg man on numerous felony charges relating to child sexual abuse material. Michael Westphal currently remains in custody on a $500,000 cash bail at the Washington County Jail while he faces those charges. The investigation, however, did not stop after the arrest.

The investigation revealed that Westphal was allegedly communicating with a child sex trafficker in the Philippines. The evidence suggested that Westphal was sending that person money in exchange for videos and pictures of a small child being sexually assaulted. Westphal believed that the money he was sending was going to cover the costs of adoption so the trafficker could adopt the victim and make it easier for Westphal to receive further videos of abuse. Additionally, Westphal was planning a trip to the Philippines to meet the trafficker and victim in person.

The lead detective on this case began working with agents from Homeland Security Investigations to identify the trafficker and victim. Over the past eight months, HSI agents have been working closely with authorities from the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Philippine National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on this case. That investigation culminated yesterday in the Philippines when a raid was conducted which resulted in the arrest of three human traffickers and the rescuing of six total children ranging from ages two to fifteen including Westphal’s alleged victim. Those suspects will now face their charges in the Philippines.

Washington County Sheriff Martin Schulteis said he was proud of the effort of his agency and all the public safety partners involved in this international effort. “Victims of child sexual exploitation are amongst the most vulnerable among us and often need an advocate on their side to free them from their unspeakable horror. These children had advocates across the globe who came together under the common goal of setting them free while bringing the perpetrators who committed the heinous crimes to justice.” The Washington County Sheriff’s Office would like to extend a special thank you to Homeland Security Investigations, as well as the PNP and the NBI in the Philippines for their efforts in this case.

Pursuant to the directive of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, as found in Supreme Court Rule 20:3.6, Trial Publicity, a charge is merely an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.