A former musical director for St. Agnes Cathedral will serve a 6-year federal prison sentence for receiving child pornography after an investigation in which prosecutors said he sent sexually explicit photos of boys to an undercover officer using the screen name "pervdad516."
U.S. District Judge Denis Hurley said Wednesday the sentence of Michael Wustrow, 59, of Freeport, also includes 10 years of supervised release during which he’ll have to follow special conditions as a sex offender.
Wustrow worked at the cathedral, which is the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre, for 24 years. He directed several youth choirs along with the adult choir.
"There’s no excuse for my behavior and I realize that what I did hurt other people," Wustrow said while speaking at the Central Islip proceeding where his lawyer said a priest and nuns were among his dozen supporters.
Wustrow also said he suffered from sex addiction but stopped getting help for it after a 2011 heart attack. He said he had started seeking pornographic images of younger and younger people after he became desensitized to adult pornography.
Federal investigators said they found 35 child pornography images when seizing Wustrow’s iPhone in 2017, including a photo of an adult male sexually abusing a boy between 6 and 8 years old.
Authorities said that seizure followed a 2016 instant messaging exchange Wustrow had with an undercover officer in which the Rockville Centre church musician said he wanted to find a father who would "rent" him his 12-year-old or 13-year-old son so he could molest him.
Wustrow stopped working at St. Agnes after church officials found out in 2017 that the FBI was investigating him after agents seized his work computer. A diocese spokesman previously said church officials "cooperated fully with law enforcement officials" and "provided timely information and outreach assistance" to the church community after learning of the investigation.
The diocese didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
A grand jury in 2019 indicted Wustrow on one count of receiving child pornography and one count of possessing child pornography. Later that year, he pleaded guilty to the receiving charge, which has minimum mandatory punishment of five years in prison.
On Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Oren Gleich asked the judge to punish the defendant with a sentence on the high end of a guidelines range of about 12 to 15 years in prison.
"Because the egregious criminal behavior of the defendant extends far beyond the charge to which he pleaded guilty, the government submits that a substantial sentence is warranted," Gleich wrote in a court filing.
Court proceedings showed that before his arrest Wustrow had consensual sex with a 17-year-old male — which isn’t illegal — but didn’t use a condom despite knowing he was HIV positive.
Gleich told the judge Wustrow boasted about having sex with children without a condom and called him "a significant danger" not just on the street but behind a computer screen.
The judge said an underage St. Agnes choir member came forward in the late stages of the case and reported Wurstow had touched him in an improper manner when fitting him for a gown. But the complainant cut off communication after that.
Wustrow’s attorney, Nancy Bartling, said the choir member’s accusations hadn’t been substantiated and there was never any corroborating evidence that Wustrow molested anyone.
She also asked Hurley to consider her client’s health issues, his remorse and his 24 years of church service when deciding his sentence.
"We’re asking you to balance the punishment here with getting him the help he needs," Bartling added.
Eastern District Acting U.S. Attorney Jacqueline Kasulis said in a statement that the sentence "underscores the serious consequences Wustrow will face for years to come for his sordid role in receiving child pornography and perpetuating the sexual abuse of children."