NNPD officer faces judge after data embedded in pornographic images of young girl led to his arrest

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Posted at 12:41 PM, Jun 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-17 18:08:48-04

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - A Newport News Police officer faced a judge Friday for a preliminary hearing and bond hearing Friday after being arrested for the sexual exploitation of children. His hearing was originally scheduled for June 15.

Last week, the Newport News Police Department announced that they were informed of an ongoing FBI investigation involving one of its officers, 39-year-old Sgt. Michael Covey.

Covey was taken into custody at Newport News Police Headquarters on Friday, June 10. He's currently being held at the Western Tidewater Regional Jail.

News 3 obtained the federal affidavit and criminal complaint related to this case. According to the affidavit, Covey was formally charged with one count of sexual exploitation of children.

Court documents say in February, the Hocking County Sheriff's Office in Ohio received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). The social media platform Kik filed a complaint with the NCMEC notifying them of seven pornographic images of young girls.

On June 1, the NCMEC identified two images and three videos of "apparent child exploitation" of a young girl. Through image analysis, the affidavit says the NCMEC found possible investigative clues that would have identified the child or the person who produced the images and videos.

Ricardo Frost is the CIO of RKF Solutionz, a cyber security agency in Chesapeake. Frost explained how the metadata from pictures and videos can be used to figure out where the images were taken.

According to Frost, metadata could be compared to a crumb trail left behind on the internet. He said the technology has been around for a while, but believes it is now is being used more and more by law enforcement.

Pictures and videos can be tracked with coordinates that can inform people where the picture was taken, Frost said. He said criminals can also use the information to identify where a person may be or their information. For example, the coordinates in a photograph would provide someone with your address if they have the right tools to look up the information.

The NCMEC determined that the files may have been taken in Newport News and forwarded them to the Southern Virginia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force in Bedford County.

Days later, on June 7, the task force contacted FBI Norfolk for help with identifying the girl in the images and videos. According to the affidavit, the data from the video files traced the source of the images and videos, which are alleged to have come from Covey. The data even revealed that an iPhone was used to take the videos.

Based on the data, officials believed the videos were taken between December 2021 and January 2022.

The criminal complaint states that enough information exists to make Covey's arrest based on probable cause while the FBI investigation continues.

News 3 spoke to Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew the afternoon Covey was arrested, and this is what he had to say:

"It is very, very unfortunate. My heart goes out to all those involved. And that's hard, but I think we have to remember that we all are held accountable, and now this situation's going to be in the courts system, and we have to let it take its course," Drew said. "And I don't want to speak out of turn or anything there, but those things are challenging. But I think it's important that we moved quickly, addressed the situation that we had - whichever way things go - but I think it's also important to be open and transparent.

"I wanted this department, Commonwealth's attorney and media to hear it from me; I didn't want to wait until rumors fly out there and people say this or that - I wanted to be open and transparent. I think that's one of the things that builds tremendous trust we have with this community and our relationship, but I was very, very saddened to hear about the charges. But then we had to do what we do, and we're gonna be professional and go forward, and that's what happened today."
Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew

Covey has been with the department for about 16 years and was most recently assigned to the Special Operations K-9 Division.

He was placed on administrative leave with pay, pending the outcome of the federal investigation.

His next court date is on August 3 in Norfolk. He will be held in jail until then.