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Child Exploitation

Former Pa. school employee pleads guilty to attempted enticement, coercion of a minor

WILMINGTON, Del. – A Pennsylvania man who was a youth football coach, school cook and summer camp counselor at the time of his arrest, pleaded guilty Thursday to attempted enticement and coercion of a minor. The guilty plea resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Michael J. Barndt, known online as "mikecoach73," 39, of Sellersville, Pa., pleaded guilty to the charges before U.S. District Judge Leonard P. Star. Barndt has been incarcerated since his arrest June 19.

"HSI is committed to stopping predators in their tracks. This defendant will no longer be a threat to our children," said John P. Kelleghan, special agent in charge of HSI in Philadelphia. "This case is yet another example of the extraordinary collaborative efforts among law enforcement in Delaware, to protect the most vulnerable among us."

Prior to his arrest, Barndt was employed as a cook at Lakeside School in Horsham Township, Pa. Barndt also served for a number of years as a youth football coach for the Springfield School District, in Montgomery County, Pa. He last coached in 2012 – the last football season prior to his arrest. During the summer, Barndt was employed as a camp counselor at Blue Bell Camp, in Blue Bell, Pa., where his duties included coaching football and driving children home from camp.

Barndt was arrested June 19 after he traveled from his Pennsylvania home to the Concord Mall in Wilmington to meet a person he believed to be a 14-year-old girl for sexual activity. Barndt began having online chats with the supposed 14-year-old girl, who was actually an undercover federal agent, after he posted an online personal ad on Craigslist.org. In the ad titled "Real Teen Fantasy" Barndt expressed interest in a sexual liaison with a teenage girl. He engaged in a series of online chats with the undercover agent where he sent the agent naked pictures of himself.

At the mall, Barndt was met by a team of HSI special agents. The special agents seized his smartphone, which was later found to contain approximately 15,000 images of teenage females who were either suggestively dressed or partially or completely nude. Most of these images appeared to have been self-produced by teenagers with smartphones.

"While Mr. Barndt will be appropriately punished for his crimes, young people must be especially cautious as to the types of images they produce of themselves on their smartphones," said U.S. Attorney Charles Oberly. "Inappropriate pictures, once in cyberspace, live on forever and can have damaging consequences even years later."

When sentenced Feb. 25, 2014, Barndt faces up to life in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and a lifetime of supervised release.

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 1-866-347-2823 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-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) or its online resource for reporting child sexual exploitation.

HSI is a founding member and the U.S. representative 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.