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November 30, 2014Beaumont, TX, United StatesChild Exploitation

Former youth pastor from east Texas sentenced to more than 23 years in federal prison for producing child pornography

BEAUMONT, Texas — A former youth pastor from east Texas was sentenced Monday to 23 years and four months in federal prison for producing child pornography, announced U.S. Attorney John M. Bales, Eastern District of Texas.

This investigation was conducted by U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), along with the Texas police departments of Newton and Beaumont.

Trevion Lechay Ethridge, 23, of Newton, Texas, was sentenced to 280 months in federal prison for producing child pornography by U.S. District Judge Ron Clark. Ethridge pleaded guilty to the charges June 3. Judge Clark further ordered that 10 years of Ethridge’s federal sentence run concurrent with any state sentence that may result from pending state charges for sexual assault and online solicitation of a minor.

“This case is particularly troubling because of the defendant's position of trust with young people,” said Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of HSI Houston. This case underscores HSI's commitment to working with our law enforcement partners to search out predators who sexually exploit our children.”

According to court information, from November 2012 to March 2013, while Ethridge was the youth pastor at a Newton County church when he persuaded a minor to produce video and still pornographic images of himself and send these images to Ethridge’s smartphone. Ethridge was indicted by a federal grand jury Oct. 3, 2013. On June 3, 2014, Ethridge changed his plea to guilty and under oath, admitted to sending the minor pornographic images and videos of himself and enticing the minor to send pornographic images and videos in return.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Randall L. Fluke and Lauren Gaston, Eastern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.

This investigation was conducted under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 12,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2014, more than 2,000 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative.

HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE 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.

For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI's Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page.

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.

Updated: 03/27/2015