GRAND RAPIDS — An Evart woman has been sentenced to 30 years in federal prison for sexually exploiting her daughter.

Andrea Mast, 32, of Evart, pleaded guilty in September to one count of sexual exploitation of a child in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids.

U.S. District Judge Janet T. Neff presided over the sentencing on Tuesday and also ordered Mast to pay $6,780 in restitution. Upon release, Mast will serve the rest of her life on supervised release.

In imposing the sentence, Neff expressed dismay over the Mast’s actions.

“I’m almost at a loss for words – our kids look to us for safety,” Neff said. “There is no excuse. ... As a society we have a responsibility to protect our children.”

U.S. Attorney Daniel Mekaru, who prosecuted the case, said Mast’s sentence was the maximum allowed by law. What is unusual, however, is the lifetime supervisory release.

“That doesn’t happen all the time,” Mekaru said. “But the judge was sufficiently concerned about her future conduct that she found it important to monitor her for life.”

Mast and Big Rapids resident Timothy Sims were arrested on Dec. 29, 2010, after Mast’s 7-year-old daughter visited her father for Christmas and told him that her mother had been taking sexually explicit photos of her and sending them “to a man named Tim in Big Rapids,” Evart Chief of Police Zackary Szakacs said after the pair were arrested on Jan. 3, 2011.

An investigation by the Evart Police Department found that Mast and Sims met through a free online dating service. During their conversations, Sims learned that Mast had a daughter and Mast later ended up sending photos of the girl to Sims in November 2010.

The sexual abuse also entailed Mast performing a sex act with Sims while the child was present, according to a statement released by the U.S. District Court. Authorities also discovered that Mast offered to allow Sims to sexually molest the girl if he paid her cell phone bill.

Investigation also revealed that Mast had previously taken sexually explicit pictures of the girl in 2006. She was sentenced to seven years 11 months to 20 years in Osceola County for that crime. Her 30-year federal sentence will run concurrently with the state sentence.

The investigation of this matter was conducted by the Evart Police Department, Mecosta County Sheriff’s Department, Big Rapids Police Department, MSP-Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the FBI.

In October, Sims pleaded guilty to one count of possessing images of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct and one count of receiving such images via e-mail. Charges against Sims for attempting to produce more child pornography images of another victim are still pending. Sims allegedly created video of a 14-year-old girl while she was dressing.

Following his arrest, Sims was charged in Mecosta County’s 77th District Court with possessing child sexually abusive material. When the U.S. Attorney’s Office indicted him, Mecosta County Prosecutor Peter Jaklevic made the decision to dismiss those charges.

As was the case with Mast, a sentence on federal charges typically is greater than a sentence handed down at the state level, he said.

“This was such a serious case and the (sentencing) guidelines we have in Michigan don’t always address the seriousness of the offense,” Jaklevic said. “That is why oftentimes we agree that the U.S. Attorney’s Office should take over our cases. Their guidelines are much more harsh and, in this case, more appropriate for the conduct. In the state system, she would have gone to prison, ... but we didn’t think we could get her more than 10 years. Anything more than 10 years would have been very difficult to get at the state level.”

For now, Sims’ sentence is held in abeyance as a ruling in his case heads through the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, Mekaru said.

“He basically plead guilty to half of the indictment and wanted to go trial on other charges,” he said. “We were scheduled to go to trial and then there was an evidentiary ruling regarding the trial that is now the subject of appeal. So that put everything on hold.”

No future court dates are scheduled for Sims at this time.

This case is part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse. The partners in Project Safe Childhood work to educate local communities about the dangers of online child exploitation, and to teach children how to protect themselves. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.