Randall V. Roberts, 41, of Columbus pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to one count of coercion for using the Internet to attempt to persuade a minor to engage in unlawful sexual activity. He faces at least ten years and up to life in prison.
"Protecting America's children from sexual predators is one of the most important public safety roles we have at HSI and sadly, it is a role that is very much needed," said Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of HSI Michigan and Ohio. "All children have an absolute right to grow up free from the fear of sexual exploitation. We will continue to focus our efforts on identifying and investigating those who victimize children."
Carter M. Stewart, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Moskowitz, and Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott, on behalf of the Franklin County Internet Against Crimes (ICAC) Task Force, announced the plea entered before U.S. District Judge Michael H. Watson.
According to court documents, Roberts met a then 14-year old in a social networking website and they exchanged phone numbers. Roberts persuaded the child to come to his home in December 2011, provided the child with alcohol and coerced the child into sexual activity.
Roberts then threatened to send an email that would get the child in trouble if the child failed to meet with him for continued sexual activity. One of the child's relatives found text messages from Roberts on the child's phone and notified the ICAC Task Force. ICAC officers arrested Roberts May 16, 2012. He has been in custody since his arrest.
"Sexploitation means threatening to expose someone's illegal sexual activity in order to keep them quiet or to keep them engaged in the activity," U.S. Attorney Stewart said. "It adds fear to the dignity and humiliation a victim is already facing."
This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI 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. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.