Official at Children's Museum Is Charged in Child Pornography Case

By Mary Beth Sheridan and Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A senior executive at the National Children's Museum was arrested yesterday and charged with distributing child pornography over the Internet, officials said.

Robert A. Singer, 49, a married father of two who lives in Falls Church, was suspended from his job as chief operating officer and barred from the museum.

"We are horrified by the charges," museum officials said in a written statement.

According to a complaint filed in Manhattan federal court, Singer sent images of naked children, some in sexual acts with adults, five times in August to a New York City police detective posing both as a mother and her 12-year-old daughter. He struck up the correspondence through an AOL chat room called Cuties, known for exchanges of pornography, the complaint alleges.

The complaint says Singer, using the name Badboy2at, wrote in one instant message intended for the mother: "luv trading pics of cuties. like to trade some?" He also wrote that it was a "pleasure to meet a fellow luver of younger erotica," the complaint says.

Authorities said they got a search warrant to review Singer's AOL account and determined that he sent about 80 images of child pornography from July through September, including those to the detective. He also allegedly received about 10 images and one video of child pornography during that time.

Singer was arrested at his home by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and charged with five counts of distributing child pornography in interstate commerce. A message left on the answering machine at his residence was not returned.

Employees at the museum said they were stunned.

"Nobody would have, in their wildest imagination, thought there might be a second life" to Singer, an outgoing man who handled the museum's budget and staffing responsibilities, one employee said. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment.

The museum's president, Kathy Southern, said Singer had been employed there for four years and had no contact with children in his job.

The museum, once located near Union Station, has been closed since 2004. It is operating from administrative offices during work on a facility scheduled to open in 2012 at the National Harbor development in Prince George's County.

Southern said she learned of the arrest when police officers and FBI agents seized Singer's computer at the museum's offices yesterday morning. The museum is cooperating with the investigation, she said.

"Kids are obviously our first priority. It's very important for us to take that position," she said.

Singer appeared yesterday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Alexandria and was ordered held pending a detention hearing tomorrow. He had not retained a lawyer as of last night.

If found guilty, Singer could face a maximum of 20 years in prison on one count and 40 years on each of the other four counts. A judge would decide whether the terms would be served concurrently or consecutively.

A woman who lives down the street from Singer, Ayako Doi, said he occasionally went to neighborhood gatherings but "doesn't socialize much." He and his wife, she said, are "perfectly nice people."

Staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company