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Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania man, a kids' party entertainer, charged with sexually assaulting 5 boys

| Monday, Oct. 30, 2017, 11:24 p.m.
Michael Cripps
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Michael Cripps

PHILADELPHIA — Michael Cripps' usual work uniform was a costume of SpongeBob Square Pants, Mickey Mouse or Elmo when he entertained at kids' birthday parties.

On Monday, Cripps donned a pair of green prison sweats and handcuffs, but it wasn't for a party.

Instead, Cripps, 43, of Colwyn, was in custody after being charged with sexually assaulting five boys whose mothers he allegedly befriended to get access to their children.

"Make no mistake, this is a very serious child predator," Delaware County District Attorney John J. Whelan told reporters in Media.

Whelan said that the five cases charged were likely just "the tip of the iceberg" and that he expected more victims would come forward.

Cripps, a short, heavyset man with close-cut gray hair, shouted "Nope!" when reporters asked if he was guilty of the charges as county detectives led him from the courthouse.

Cripps is being held on $250,000 bail, but Whelan said Cripps would not be released even if he had the money because he was on parole after serving time for a series of burglaries. Cripps is scheduled for preliminary hearings Nov. 8 before Folcroft District Judge Steven A. Sandone and Nov. 14 before Upper Darby District Judge Robert J. Radano.

Whelan said that Cripps had operated the company M.C. Parties since 2010 or 2011 and that his Facebook page includes numerous photos of him in costume or with children, some also in costume. The criminal charges involving the five victims, however, did not involve his work as a child entertainer.

Instead, Whelan said, Cripps allegedly targeted single or divorced women with young boys, struck up relationships, and then volunteered to baby-sit in their houses or his while the mother was at work. Whelan said the alleged assaults occurred at 14 addresses in Upper Darby, East Lansdowne, Lansdowne, Aldan, Darby and Colwyn. The affidavit of probable cause filed with Cripps' arrest noted that Cripps lived or stayed at 13 Delaware County addresses, and one each in Philadelphia and Chester counties, between 1998 and 2012.

Whelan said the first report of Cripps' alleged sexual assaults on boys was in 2012, but his office did not believe it had enough evidence to file charges. Moreover, Cripps then already was being prosecuted by the Delaware County District Attorney's Office for a series of burglaries. Cripps pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two to four years in prison.

The affidavit of probable cause reports that in July 2012, a child-abuse hotline report alleged that four boys, ages 8 to 17, were compelled to sleep in the same bed with Cripps on numerous occasions and that Cripps became angry when the boys refused or resisted.

On Sept. 18, county detectives interviewed a man between ages 18 and 25 who described how he allegedly was sexually assaulted by Cripps and who said he was present for two of the sexual assaults reported in 2012, involving brothers ages 8 and 7, the affidavit said. The man alleged that Cripps would take a young boy to his room and lock the door.

The September 2017 interview occurred at the same time county detectives were investigating a new child-abuse hotline report alleging that Cripps had sexually assaulted a 5-year-old boy. The boy told detectives that Cripps had touched his genitals, according to the affidavit.

The interview of the 5-year-old was followed on Oct. 24 by an interview with a boy, 17, who told county detectives that Cripps had sexually molested him when he was 10 in a house in Drexel Hill.

Criminal court records show that Cripps was arrested twice — in 2003 and 2006 — on sex-assault charges involving minors, but in both cases, the charges were withdrawn.

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