Former Air National Guardsman allegedly defected to Russian military after child porn charges

A former Air National Guardsman facing child pornography charges defected and joined the Russian army in its war against Ukraine, the Rhode Island attorney general’s office alleges.

Wilmer Puello-Mota, 28, a former security forces technical sergeant with the Massachusetts Air National Guard, allegedly fled the country following charges of possession of child pornography.

“We are aware Mr. Puello-Mota left the country in response to civil criminal charges filed against him,” Don Veitch, a spokesperson for the 104th Fighter Wing in Massachusetts, told Military.com, emphasizing that the charges are “very serious.”

The charges prompted Puello-Mota’s removal from the National Guard in October 2022.

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inmate in handcuffs

Wilmer Puello-Mota, 28, a former security forces technical sergeant with the Massachusetts Air National Guard, allegedly fled the country following charges of possession of child pornography. (iStock)

“Criminal activity is not compatible with our values as an organization and will not be tolerated in our ranks,” Veitch said.

Before joining the National Guard, Puello-Mota served in the active-duty Air Force, also as a security forces airman, according to a press release from the Air Force regarding the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing’s 2015 deployment to Afghanistan.

Puello-Mota was charged in 2020 with possession of child pornography after allegedly soliciting nude photos from a teenager, according to legal documents, Military.com reported. He was a city councilman in Holyoke, Massachusetts, from January 2022 to January 2024 through most of the legal proceedings in connection with the charge.

According to court documents from the Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha’s office, Puello-Mota’s last known location was Istanbul, Turkey, according to Military.com. He boarded a flight on Jan. 7, two days before he was scheduled to be in court for the child pornography charges, and left from Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia for Turkey.

Facebook posts from Puello-Mota and Telegram posts from other users allegedly in Russia allege the former Guardsman joined the Russian army in the ongoing war against Ukraine.

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Peter Neronha

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha’s (pictured) office, Wilmer Puello-Mota’s last known location was Istanbul, Turkey. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, file)

In a post on Telegram, a video shows who users claim is Puello-Mota signing up to serve in the Russian army.

“‘Will served in the US Armed Forces, but realizing what was really happening in Ukraine, several months ago he came to the North Military District as a volunteer,” the video reads. “Together with the Russian guys, shoulder to shoulder, I liberated Avdiivka.”

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It is unclear whether the social media posts are authentic, but court documents show they are considered evidence that Puello-Mota left U.S. jurisdiction.

“The state has received photos and videos purporting to be the defendant in Russia and Ukraine, where he is alleged to have joined the Russian military,” Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha said in a statement. “While the state cannot verify the authenticity of the videos and photographs, if they are accurate, the defendant is well beyond the jurisdiction of this court and, if false, the defendant is engaged in an elaborate ruse to conceal his whereabouts.”

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