Federal Way photographer accused of possessing, dealing child pornography

The 36-year-old man was arrested on June 30.

A 36-year-old Federal Way man is facing charges after a months-long investigation found he allegedly accessed and uploaded hundreds of sexually explicit materials involving minors on his phone, according to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Brian Mason Benedict, a Federal Way resident, was charged with one count of first-degree dealing in depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct and one count of first-degree possession of depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office asked for Benedict to be held in jail on $100,000 bail. Judge Haydee Vargas set bail at $50,000, according to the charging documents.

His bail is set at $50,000 based on the likelihood Benedict “will commit a violent offense in light of the depraved nature of the depictions which he disseminated, exchanged, and encouraged trade with like-minded individuals,” Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Laura J. Harmon wrote in the charging documents. Harmon also noted Benedict is “charged with peddling in the misery of sexually abused children to satiate deviant interests and therefore has evidenced the threat he poses to community safety, most specifically minor children.”

Benedict’s arraignment is July 14 at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent.

On Jan. 28, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received a tip that a user uploaded over 400 depictions of minors involved in sexually explicit conduct, documents state. The materials were accessed and stored on a device’s media cloud storage account, allegedly linked to Benedict’s phone number.

In May, a Tacoma police detective began investigating Benedict — who lived in Tacoma at the time — and reportedly found multiple files of illicit content on the cloud storage account. Police linked the associated phone number to two prior 911 calls in 2017 and 2018, tracing the number back to Benedict.

The detective also found a previous child cruelty investigation allegedly involving Benedict, charging documents state.

After obtaining a search warrant in late May, the detective reviewed Benedict’s cloud storage account and found over 30 files containing children engaged in explicit sexual acts. Additional photos on the account also identified Benedict as the owner of the account, documents state.

With an additional search warrant, Tacoma police seized several of Benedict’s electronic devices, including his Motorola cell phone, from his Federal Way home on June 30. The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, the FBI, Federal Way Police, and Washington State Patrol Missing and Exploited Children Task Force assisted with the warrant.

Benedict was arrested and allegedly told police afterward that he regularly accesses child pornography and that he downloaded explicit photos involving children onto his cell phone, according to charging documents.

The charging documents state Benedict is employed by Leo’s Photography, a student photography business operating with headquarters in Spokane and Auburn. A document provided to the Mirror shows Benedict listed as the regional manager for Leo’s Photography and a former employee told the Mirror that Benedict was the photography manager for the Auburn branch.

Jim Nelson, owner of Leo’s Photography, said Benedict worked for the company for multiple years up until Nelson found out about the case on Friday, July 1. Benedict was terminated immediately, he said.

“It blindsided all of us,” he said.

Nelson said the company photographs for school districts, individual schools and sports leagues. He confirmed Benedict was both a frequent photographer and directed photoshoots for the company.