A professional photographer drugged and sexually assaulted young models or aspiring models he worked with in Oregon and California, federal and state authorities alleged on Wednesday.
Robert Arnold Koester, 52, is accused of bringing young women and girls to a remote property outside McMinnville, in Oregon’s wine country, taking nude photos of them and sexually assaulting them there, Yamhill County District Attorney Brad Berry said at a news conference.
He announced an indictment charging Koester with 32 criminal charges — including rape. Investigators serving two search warrants at the remote, 28-acre property seized “many, many terabytes” of digital photos and videos as evidence. The images suggest other victims may have been abused on the property, Mr Berry said.
Authorities asked anyone who was at the property for a modelling shoot — or anyone who knows of female models who went to Koester’s property — to contact authorities.
Koester’s defence lawyer in the California cases, Jonathan Lynn, declined to comment when reached by phone on Wednesday.
The indictment in the Oregon cases is sealed and court records, including a listing for a defence lawyer, were not available in the state’s online criminal system. No one immediately returned an email sent to a listing on Koester’s business website.
Koester, who was known professionally as Bert Kay, worked primarily photographing models in the US West but authorities said they have identified potential victims in cities across the country. He got referrals for modelling shoots from several professional modelling agencies and was fairly well-known within the industry, Mr Berry said.
His business website, Bert Kay Photography, is splashed with the slogan: “Chasing Light: From a hilltop farm in Oregon wine country to locations worldwide,” and features some of his Pacific Northwest modelling photography.
The charges in Oregon and California identify eight people — four in Oregon and four in California, Mr Berry said.
“It’s hard to give you an estimate of the number of victims, in part because the amount of information that has been seized and has yet to be analysed is huge and we don’t really know,” he said. “We wholly expect there to be more victims.”
Koester, who also went by Rhake Winter and Qitooly, was indicted in Oregon on January 30, on 32 counts of first-degree rape, sodomy, unlawful sexual penetration and causing another person to ingest a controlled substance. The alleged victims include three women and one girl who were brought to the Oregon property from outside the state, Mr Berry said.
Koester is also charged with 23 sex-related counts in San Diego County, where he was arrested in November 2018 on suspicion of sexually abusing four teenage girls in Carlsbad, California.
He is being held on $1 million bail there and is on a hold in the federal cases, court records show. His bail in Oregon is listed at $2.5 million. Koester also faces two federal counts of sexual exploitation of a minor in California. He bought the Oregon property in 2012 or 2013, Mr Berry said.