Nicole F. Vaisey, 26, of Hermon, New York, pleaded guilty today to all ten counts of a federal indictment charging her with child exploitation offenses, announced U.S. Attorney Richard S. Hartunian for the Northern District of New York and Special Agent in Charge Andrew T. Vale of the Albany Division for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Vaisey will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Glenn T. Suddaby on Sept. 25, 2015. She has been in custody since she was arrested on Aug. 15, 2014, and her detention was ordered to continue pending sentencing.
Vaisey pleaded guilty to conspiracy to produce child pornography (Count 1) and producing child pornography (Counts 2-10). On May 8, 2015, co-defendant Stephen M. Howells II pleaded guilty to all 21 of the counts of the indictment charging him with conspiracy, production of child pornography and possession of child pornography. Howells will be sentenced by Judge Suddaby on Sept. 18, 2015.
“Nicole Vaisey and Stephen Howells victimized the most vulnerable and innocent among us – young children – and the substantial penalties they face reflect the extreme seriousness of their predatory criminal conduct,” said U.S. Hartunian. “The guilty pleas by Vaisey today, following those by Howells last week, will help to hasten the process of healing and closure for the victims, their families and a community that was shocked by the commission of these horrific crimes. I am grateful for the hard work by all those who toiled to bring them to justice and I especially commend the joint efforts of the FBI, the St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department and the New York State Police in conducting an investigation that resulted in both defendants pleading guilty to every charge they faced in federal court.”
“Today’s guilty plea is an important step in ensuring that Nicole Vaisey is never able to abuse a child again,” said Special Agent in Charge Vale. “The crimes she committed with Stephen Howells are horrifying and the FBI and its law enforcement partners will continue to pursue those who engage and attempt to engage in the sexual exploitation of children.”
“With the plea today to the indictment by Nicole F. Vaisey we can start to see an end to this investigation,” said Sheriff Kevin Wells of St. Lawrence County. “Nicole Vaisey is a full co-conspirator with Howells and her plea and sentencing should all be reflective of that. I applaud Sheriff’s Office staff, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for all of their hard work on this case. This brings some closure to the legal aspects of the case, but we still need to keep the victims in our thoughts and prayers. The positive part of this is that Howells and Vaisey will not have the ability to victimize a child again.”
Vaisey’s admissions as part of her guilty plea included the following: Beginning in 2013, Vaisey and Howells conspired with one another to engage minors in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing child pornography. Howells obtained drugs through his work as a registered nurse and used the drugs to sedate the child victims, girls ranging in age from five to 11 years old. Vaisey arranged for a girl born in 2006 to spend the night with them and the child was used by Vaisey and Howells to engage in sexually explicit conduct and they produced child pornography depicting that conduct, on six separate dates from Sept. 7, 2013, through May 31, 2014. On several of the dates, Vaisey filmed Howells sexually abusing the child. On two of the dates, Vaisey also sexually abused the child.
Howells arranged for a girl born in 2003 to spend the night with them, and the child was used by Vaisey and Howells to engage in sexually explicit conduct and they produced child pornography depicting that conduct on Nov. 17, 2013, and Dec. 15, 2013. On both dates, Vaisey both filmed Howells sexually abusing the child and sexually abused the child herself.
In 2014, Vaisey and Howells together developed and planned a scheme to kidnap minor children for use in sexually explicit conduct and for the purpose of producing child pornography. Each of them made trips to observe and locate possible children to abduct, including Amish girls. On Aug. 13, 2014, Vaisey and Howells went to an Amish farm stand to abduct two girls, ages 11 and six, by pretending to be customers and using a dog to get the children to the car. Howell forced the children into the car and drugged one of them, and Vaisey drove off. Howells sexually assaulted the children as Vaisey watched and then filmed.
Vaisey faces imprisonment for at least 15 years and up to 30 years on the conspiracy charge, as well as on each of the substantive exploitation counts. The court has the discretion to run all of these sentences concurrently or consecutively to one another. Vaisey will also be required to serve a term of supervised release of a minimum of five years and up to life to follow any term of incarceration and will be required to register as a sex offender.
This case was investigated by the St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI, with substantial assistance from the New York State Police. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lisa Fletcher and Tamara Thomson.