This investigation was led by US Homeland Security Investigations.
A 25-year-old US child sex offender who exploited several young boys – including two in Australia – has been jailed for 35 years in Ohio.
The investigation was led by US Homeland Security Investigations, who began looking into the man’s online activities after receiving information he was encouraging children to produce sexually explicit images.
The man posed as a girl online, and also used memorabilia acquired from his job with the Cleveland Cavaliers, to entice and coerce minors to send him the images.
The man then attempted to blackmail his victims and threatened to release the explicit images to their family and friends. Further investigation revealed potential ‘sextortion’ victims in Ohio, Tennessee, Iowa, Texas, Australia, Austria and France.
The man was in Australia on a holiday when US authorities searched his Ohio home on January 25, 2019, seizing several electronic devices revealing further evidence of online offending. The man was arrested upon arrival in Dallas, Texas, when he returned to the US.
As part of a coordinated response, US authorities provided information to the Australian Federal Police to enable the AFP to conduct search warrant activity at a property in Western Sydney where the man had been staying while on holiday. Evidence and witness statements were taken by the AFP and then provided to US authorities which were used to support the prosecution.
The 25-year-old pleaded guilty in September 2019 and this week was sentenced to 35 years in prison with 25 years’ supervised release to follow. He was also ordered to pay $45,900 in special assessments.
United States Attorney Herdman said the 35-year prison sentence sends a message to those who would sexually assault and exploit our children.
“We will find you anywhere in the world and we will never quit until you are brought to justice and held accountable for the unspeakable harm you have caused.”
Vance Callender, special agent in charge of HSI for Michigan and Ohio, said this case is a disturbing reminder that international borders are no longer a hindrance for online predators.
“This sentence should ensure victims around the world that Homeland Security Investigations and our partners in the international law enforcement community are committed to aggressively targeting those engaged in these heinous acts.”
David Frattare, Commander of the Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force said the defendant’s conduct should serve as a warning to parents.
“Offenders are creating fictitious identities to groom, threaten and exploit children on today’s popular Internet sites and social media apps. Online child exploitation offenders understand the power that these inappropriate images and videos have when it comes to continuing this victimization.”
Australian Federal Police (AFP) Assistant Commissioner Debbie Platz said alarmingly, the volume of reports concerning the sexual exploitation of children is increasing and the appetite for the vile material can lead to vulnerable children suffering devastating harm.
“Today’s outcome sends a strong message to child sex offenders that you are not anonymous online,” Assistant Commissioner Platz said.
“It does not matter where you live, or if you are in a different country to your victims, police will track you down and prosecute you. The partnership forged between HSI and the AFP in countering child exploitation on a global level was pivotal to the successful outcome in this matter.”
Australian Border Force Commander, Investigations, Graeme Grosse said this result was a great example of international partner agencies, working together to protect children on a global scale.
“The ABF has assisted our international partners in catching and bringing this individual to justice who was actively seeking out children with the intent to exploit and abuse them for his own gratification.” he said. “Anybody who is involved in this type of activity should know that there is nowhere to hide and the international law enforcement community is actively seeking you out to ensure are stopped and you face the full force of the law.”
This investigation was conducted by Homeland Security Investigations, the Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, HSI-Canberra, the Australian Federal Police and Australian Border Force. Further detail from an affidavit in the case and information presented at sentencing by the US Department of Justice is available from the US Attorney’s Office.