Professional photographer accused of secretly filming girls in basement dressing room
GERMANTOWN, Md. (ABC7) —
A professional photographer is accused of using his iPhone to secretly record two teenage sisters while they changed in a dressing room prior to a photo shoot.
Mark Weikert, 46, of Germantown is currently facing 21 criminal counts including, sex abuse of a minor, prurient intent and possession of child pornography.
According to Montgomery County Police, last July, a Germantown woman hired Weikert to take glamour photos of her two daughters, then 13 and 14 years old.
Weikert reportedly instructed the girls to change into their outfits in a basement dressing room, located beside his in-home photo studio. As the girls undressed, one noticed a small box atop a dresser with a peephole. Inside of the box was an iPhone 5 that was actively recording video. The girls reviewed the video and allegedly saw Weikert setting up the contraption, prior to them walking into the room and taking off their clothes. The girls deleted the clip and placed the smart phone back in the box.
When the girls returned home, they notified their mother about the unsettling discovery. She called police.
“It's so disgusting," said the girls' mother who ABC7 News is not identifying by name. "He has a kid of his own, so it really shocked me that he would do something like that."
On the following day, officers with Montgomery County's Child Exploitation Unit knocked on Weikert's front door. With a signed search warrant in hand, they confiscated multiple computers, external hard drives and mobile devices from his two-story single family home, located along the 20500 block of Watkins Meadow Drive.
The Montgomery County Police Electronic Crimes Unit reviewed the seized devices. On one external hard drive, police say they found multiple videos of an underage girl unclothed in Weikert's basement dressing room. Date stamps showed the videos were recorded in 2012 and 2014. Upon further review, the girl turned out to be one of the two sisters who found the alleged hidden camera. Weikert had previously photographed the girls on a number of occasions.
Investigators say they also uncovered more than a dozen explicit videos of child pornography from the external hard drive. However, they believe Weikert did not create those files, but rather downloaded them from the internet.
"I met Mark through a mutual friend," the girls' mother added. "He seemed so friendly and genuine. Like it seemed as if he really wanted to help others out, people who couldn’t afford photographs that were high-quality. So we used him from time-to-time."
Weikert's company goes by the name "Dark Photography Designs." He photographed many topics, themes and events, but law enforcement sources say he focused most heavily on female glamour, fashion and athletic shoots.
Montgomery County Police say they are highly suspicious that more victims may exist, adding that many might be unaware of any impropriety. Investigators are working diligently in attempt to uncover any additional images and video, if it exists.
“It’s really sad because he’s photographed so many kids, and girls, and who knows what other video footage he has," the girls' mother suggested. "There's no way my daughters were the only ones."
On Wednesday, ABC7 News contacted Weikert on a telephone number listed in court documents. We also reached out to his defense attorney seeking comment, but as of the publication of this story, no one had returned our calls.
“That’s just creepy. That’s really creepy, it that’s in fact what happened," one of Weikert's neighbors stated. "I've waved hello a few times. I see him smoking in the garage and his wife cuts the lawn. That's about it really."
Online court records indicate the 46-year-old photographer is scheduled for a three-day jury trial set to start on Halloween day. He faces more than 100 years in prison.
“There has to be something mentally wrong if you want to see a child naked. I’m really glad that my youngest daughter was there. She likes to snoop and if it wasn’t for her snooping then it would’ve never been found and no one would have ever known that this happened," the girls' mother concluded.