A jury convicted Randall Howard Wolford, 54, on one count of enticing a child following a one-day trial before U.S. District Judge John A. McBryde. He was charged in a federal complaint in September 2008, and was then indicted by a grand jury in Fort Worth the following month. He has been detained pending disposition of his case. He faces a maximum statutory sentence of life in prison.
According to testimony at trial, in March 2008, a Sansom Park police officer, worked in an undercover capacity and posed as a 13-year-old girl named Jennifer. After entering a Yahoo! chat room, she was contacted by Randall Howard Wolford, using the screen name of email@example.com. Wolford continued to chat with the undercover officer using instant messaging, only when the officer assured him that she had chatted online with other men before and had received sexually graphic photos from these men. The undercover officer repeatedly denied being law enforcement or working for Perverted Justice, as Wolford accused. In less than two hours of online chatting with someone whom he thought was a 13-year-old girl, the conversation turned sexual in nature and Wolford wanted the undercover officer to give details about a prior encounter with another man. Wolford continued to tell the undercover officer in sexually graphic detail what he wanted to do to her.
More online chats ensued, and in one, Wolford offered to send a webcam to the undercover officer. He said he would enjoy seeing her on camera, and that he wouldn't meet anyone without first seeing them on a webcam. Later, in the same conversation, he displayed a webcam video of himself masturbating. They scheduled a meeting and Wolford suggested that she could stay home sick from school one day when her mother is working. He said that they would have to talk on the phone before they meet. Wolford wanted to verify the child's age. Several more chats ensued, and Wolford attempted to persuade, induce or entice the 13-year-old to engage in sexual activity with him. On April 14, 2008, Wolford provided his phone number to her to call him. This phone number was later verified as the same one used by Wolford when his phone was seized following his arrest.
On April 15, 2008, a Sansom Park Police Department employee, posing as the 13-year-old girl, called Wolford. The phone call was cryptic in nature with Wolford not wanting to speak of any sexual details.
On April 23, 2008, Wolford contacted the undercover officer to set up a meeting at a McDonald's restaurant in Fort Worth. Wolford stated that he would have a drink waiting for her in his vehicle. He failed to show, however, and they set up another meeting for April 30 at the same McDonald's. That day, the same Sansom Park Police Department employee that made the phone call to Wolford was dropped off a block away from the restaurant 30 minutes before the scheduled meeting. She wore the clothing the undercover officer had stated she would be wearing. As she entered the restaurant, Wolford drove up to her and stopped, stating, "Hey, Jen... over here, get in." The undercover officer then stated that she had to use the restroom, and that she would be right back. Wolford then left the area and was arrested.
According to the affidavit, during the investigation, the undercover officer discovered that Wolford had committed similar acts a few years ago when he attempted to meet another underage girl. He was caught in a sting operation conducted by Perverted Justice and NBC's Dateline television show.
Wolford's sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 19, 2009.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
ICE adopted the case and prepared it for federal prosecution as part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders, and child sex traffickers. Since Operation Predator was launched in July 2003, ICE agents have arrested more than 11,600 individuals, including 1,160 in Texas.
ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE. This hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.
U.S. Attorney Roper praised the investigative efforts of the Sansom Park Police Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alex C. Lewis and Aisha Saleem are prosecuting the case.