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December 20, 2022Charleston, WV, United StatesChild Exploitation

HSI Charleston investigation lands former West Virginia elementary school counselor 25 years in prison for child exploitation crimes

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — An investigation led by Homeland Security Investigations Charleston, commonly called HSI Charleston, resulted in a 25-year prison sentence followed by a lifetime of supervised release for an Elkview, West Virginia man. Todd Christopher Roatsey, 43, a former counselor at Pinch Elementary School in Kanawha County received the lengthy sentence Monday for attempted production of child pornography and attempted enticement of a minor. Roatsey must also pay $23,000 in restitution to his victims and register as a sex offender.

According the HSI-led investigation and statements made in court, beginning in January 2020, Roatsey communicated via Snapchat with one girl he believed to be 16 years old and a second female he also believed to be a minor.

Roatsey admitted that he posed as an 18-year-old boy while persuading each victim to record and send him numerous sexually explicit videos that depicted them masturbating. Roatsey further admitted that he sent both girls videos of himself masturbating.

“Today’s sentencing is reflective of just how despicable and damaging Todd Roatsey’s crimes against children are and emphasizes HSI’s dedication to holding perpetrators accountable,” said Derek W. Gordon, acting special agent in charge of HSI Washington. “HSI will do all we can to prevent any crime against children from going unpunished. HSI remains dedicated to protecting our most vulnerable population against sexual predators who seek to take advantage of their innocence.”

Roatsey also used this Snapchat account to communicate with several minor females he knew through his position as an elementary school counselor. These communications included more than 100 Snapchat videos that Roatsey recorded while communicating with two minor females, each approximately 12 years old. One was a student at Pinch Elementary at the time.

During these conversations, Roatsey received numerous videos of the minor females doing what he called “sexy” dance routines or gymnastics poses such as full backbends. The minor females often wore only sports bras and shorts in these videos. Roatsey admitted to responding to these videos by telling the minor females they were “hot” and “sexy.”

The Court found Roatsey had caused “incalculable damage” to his victims.

“As an elementary school counselor, Roatsey intentionally placed himself in a position of trust over the kinds of children to whom he was sexually attracted,” said United States Attorney Will Thompson. “In our communities, schools are the only constant for a lot of children. A lot of the time, school is the safe place. The fact that Mr. Roatsey made this not a safe place was, I find, to be very horrific.”

Roatsey further admitted to distributing, receiving, possessing and accessing child pornography, including images and videos depicting infants and toddlers, through a variety of media between at least October 9, 2019, through July 16, 2021. Roatsey possessed child pornography on devices seized from his residence, including his cell phone, and on the encrypted cloud-based file storage service Mega. Using both Mega and the messaging application Kik, Roatsey distributed various images and videos of prepubescent minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct to other individuals.

On October 28, 2021, Special Agents from HSI Charleston executed a search warrant at Roatsey’s residence and seized numerous electronic devices found to contain child pornography.

Roatsey admitted that several hours after law enforcement completed the search and left his residence, he deleted the Snapchat account he used to engage in these activities. By deleting the account, Roatsey obstructed justice by making various Snapchat records inaccessible to law enforcement and unavailable for any subsequent federal prosecution.

This investigation was led by HSI Charleston with significant assistance from the West Virginia State Police and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia.

Senior United States District Judge John T. Copenhaver Jr. imposed the sentence. Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer Rada Herrald prosecuted the case.

HSI encourages members of the public to report suspected crime and any suspicious activity in your neighborhood through its toll-free tip line at 866-347-2423. This phone line is staffed around the clock. From outside the United States and Canada, dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users may call TTY 802-872-6196.

This case was prosecuted as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative of the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States attorney’s offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute those who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 6,800 special agents assigned to 225 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents the Department of Homeland Security’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.