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Kalamazoo sex offender facing new federal charges over multistate investigation

Robert Lee Cato Jr., 44, was previously convicted on child pornography charges in 2015
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Posted at 6:37 PM, Mar 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-15 18:37:17-04

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — A Kalamazoo sex offender is facing new federal charges for child pornography after being linked to investigations in New Mexico and Oklahoma.

44-year-old Robert Lee Cato Jr. was previously convicted on multiple charges for possession of child pornography in 2015. He pleaded no contest to possession of child sexually abusive material, using a computer to commit a crime, and accosting children for immoral purposes.

Cato's face and information now live on Michigan's sex offender registry because of the conviction.

Despite the substantial legal repercussions he faced, according to new federal court documents, they did not dissuade him from continuing to commit illegal acts online.

According to the documents, the National Center for Missing and Exploited children received a tip from KIK (a popular messaging application) regarding a user who was "uploading or sharing suspected child pornography to another user or group."

An FBI agent working out of Kalamazoo received a report from the national agency on May 30, 2021. They began the process of trying to figure out who owned the account.

The videos that the user was accused of sharing contained prepubescent children, including an infant, a young boy between the ages of 2 and 5, and young girls between 7 and 10 years old.

The Kalamazoo FBI agent was able to link the KIK account in question to Robert Cato through the process of serving subpoenas to KIK and multiple internet service providers.

Kato had previously been living in Kalamazoo. When the FBI agent checked in with Cato's former probation and parole officer, they were told that Cato had moved to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

After establishing the user in question's true identity, the agent learned that Cato had been drawing people's attention down south.

According to the documents, on a day around Sept. 10, 2021, a neighbor of Cato called the Sierra County Sheriff's Office to report that the 44-year-old had "put his bulldog into his Jeep, drove down the block and asked a young male to get into his Jeep so the boy could pet the dog."

A sex offender registry coordinator with Sierra County confronted Cato after the incident happened, telling him that he was "close to being charged with enticement." The officer relayed that Cato had denied being a "hands-on offender" and had told them that he left Michigan to get away from his family there.

Investigators in Tulsa, Oklahoma, have also identified Robert Cato as someone who had communicated with the subject of one of their investigations into a local producer of child pornography there.

Cato has been arrested on charges relating to child pornography, and is currently in the Newaygo County Jail. He is expected back in federal court on Thursday for a detention hearing.

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