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Child Exploitation
04/24/2009

North Texas man sentenced to more than 24 years for enticing a minor

FORT WORTH, Texas - A man from Midlothian, Texas, was sentenced Friday by U.S. District Judge John McBryde to 292 months in prison for enticing a minor to engage in sex. The sentence was announced by acting U.S. Attorney James T. Jacks, Northern District of Texas; the case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Samson Park Police Department.

Randall Howard Wolford, 55, was convicted by a federal jury in December on one count of enticing a child. He has been in custody since September 2008 when he was charged in a federal complaint. He was indicted by a grand jury in Fort Worth in October.

In March 2008, an officer with the Samson Park Police Department, working in an undercover capacity and posing as a 13-year-old girl named Jennifer, entered a Yahoo! chat room and was contacted by Wolford, using the screen name: lighmanntx@yahoo.com. Wolford continued to chat, using instant messaging, with the undercover officer only when the officer assured him that he 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. In sexually graphic detail, Wolford continued to tell the undercover officer what he wanted to do to her.

More online chats ensued, and in one, Wolford offered to send a webcam to the undercover officer, saying that 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 schedule a meeting and Wolford suggests that she could stay home sick from school one day when her mother is working but that they would have to talk on the phone before they meet so he could verify the child's age.

Several more chats ensued between Wolford and the undercover officer in which 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. Later this phone number was verified as the same phone number being used by Wolford when his phone was seized following his arrest.

On April 15, 2008, a Samson 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 about 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 Samson Park Police Department employee that made the phone call to Wolford was dropped off a block away from the restaurant 30 minutes prior to the scheduled meeting. She was wearing the clothing the undercover officer had stated she would be wearing. As she entered the McDonald's, Wolford drove up to her and stopped, stating, "Hey, Jen... over here, get in." The undercover officer 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 court documents, during the course of the investigation, the undercover officer discovered that Wolford had committed similar acts a few years ago when he attempted to meet another underage girl and was caught in a sting operation conducted by Perverted Justice and NBC's Dateline television show.

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 United States 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, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

This investigation was also 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.