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Former US National Guard member facing child pornography charges joins Russian army

Facing disturbing allegations, American Wilmer Puello-Mota fled prosecution in Massachusetts, subsequently appearing in videos that show him joining Russian troops assaulting Ukraine.
Wilmer Puello-Mota, a former member of the US National Guard and local politician. Photo: Agentstvo
Former US National Guard member facing child pornography charges joins Russian army

Wilmer Puello-Mota, a former member of the US National Guard and local politician facing child pornography charges, signed a contract with the Russian army after previously volunteering in the assault on Avdiivka, Donetsk oblast in Ukraine, the exiled Russian news outlet Agentstvo reports.

Agentstvo first drew attention to a propaganda video circulated by Russian media and milbloggers, showing a “former American soldier Bill” signing the contract with Russia’s Defense Ministry. The video claimed the man had participated in Russia’s takeover of Avdiivka in eastern Ukraine.

Journalists discovered the American was indeed Wilmer Puello-Mota, previously a city councilor from Holyoke, Massachusetts. In September 2022, he was arrested on charges of possessing child pornography after a 17-year-old victim alleged Puello-Mota extorted money from her in exchange for explicit photos, knowing she was a minor.

Puello-Mota also faced additional charges of forgery, counterfeiting and obstruction for allegedly forging emails to deceive authorities and keep his position at the Barnes Air National Guard Base after the arrests. Released on $20,000 bail, he fled to Istanbul just before a 2023 court hearing.

After this, a photo of the Kremlin appeared on his Facebook page, and Puello-Mota listed the Russian Ministry of Defense as his place of work in his profile.

Social media then showed photos of the Kremlin on Puello-Mota’s Facebook, listing the Russian Defense Ministry as his workplace. 

American media drew attention to Puello-Mota’s appearance in the Avdiivka area in early March. In videos published on Instagram, a man resembling Puello-Mota, dressed in military uniform, was seen placing a US flag in Avdiivka. In the video, he says, “We need to support Russia. We must have friendship. We must ensure that the set goals are achieved.”

If convicted on the US charges, Puello-Mota could have faced at least 5 years in prison, potentially more due to his fugitive status. 

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