WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — An Iowa man was sentenced Thursday to 20 years in federal prison followed by a lifetime of supervised release after he pleaded guilty to two counts of receiving images of child pornography and transmitting obscene material to a minor under the age of 16 years old. The sentence resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Jupiter Police Department.
According to court documents, Eric Runyan, 31, of Earlham, Iowa, used an online social networking application to contact and initiate a chat with a 9-year-old girl in Jupiter, Fla.
Runyan, using his screen name Hard_n_big2000, asked the victim, "How old u?"
The 9-year-old immediately responded, "10 … Leave me alone."
Runyan continued to chat with the victim and sent the child a picture of his genitals. He then proceeded to ask the 9-year-old to take and transmit sexually explicit images of herself, which she did. When the 9-year-old tried to end the conversation, Runyan sent her threatening text messages, saying that he would ruin the 9-year-old's iPhone. He also threatened to find and kill her.
When the 9-year-old reported the incident to her parents, Jupiter Police Department detectives and HSI special agents were able to determine that the communications originated from Runyan's home.
Runyan was arrested and confessed to his involvement in the crime. He stated that he used his iPod Touch to communicate with the 9-year-old victim, transmit the images of himself to her and receive the sexually explicit images of the child.
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 1-866-347-2423 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.