WILMINGTON, Del. – A Pennsylvania man who allegedly traveled to Delaware to engage in sexual relations with a minor female was arrested Wednesday at a Delaware shopping mall. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Michael J. Barndt, 39, of Sellersville, Pa., was arrested and charged Wednesday with attempted enticement and coercion of a minor and attempted transfer of obscene matter to a minor. The charges stem from his alleged communications and travel from Pennsylvania to Delaware to engage in sex acts with an individual whom Barndt believed to be a 14-year-old girl. The "girl" that Barndt was communicating with was actually an HSI special agent.
According to the complaint, on or about June 7, Barndt posted an online personal ad on Craigslist titled, "Real Teen Fantasy," wherein Barndt expressed interest in a teenaged fantasy liaison. An undercover HSI agent posing as a 14-year-old girl responded to the ad. Thereafter, Barndt, using the screen name mikecoach73, engaged in a series of online chats with the undercover agent, expressing his interest in engaging in sexual relations with the person whom he believed to be a 14-year-old child and transmitted inappropriate photographs to entice the "girl" to meet him.
"HSI will relentlessly pursue those who would try to steal the innocence of Delaware’s children," said HSI Resident Agent in Charge Jonathan Free.
On or about June 19, Barndt made arrangements to travel from his home in Pennsylvania to Delaware for the purpose of engaging in sexual relations with the person whom he believed to be a 14-year-old girl. Barndt checked into a hotel in New Castle County, Del. Barndt also traveled to the nearby Concord Mall and purchased lingerie for the child. Shortly thereafter, Barndt traveled back to the Concord Shopping Mall to pick up the child as planned, where he was arrested.
Barndt is employed as a cook at the Lakeside School in Horsham Township, Pa. during the school year. During the summer months, Barndt is employed as a camp counselor at Blue Bell Camp in Blue Bell, Pa. In the fall of 2012, Barndt was also a middle school football coach in the Springfield School District in Montgomery County.
The charges in the complaint are only allegations and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
If convicted, Barndt faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison, fines of up to $250,000 for each offense and a term of supervised release of at least five years.
The 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 1-866-347-2423 or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-843-5678.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.