CHICAGO — A north suburban man pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal criminal charges for threatening to publish sexually explicit images of an underage girl unless she sent him additional explicit images and videos of herself.
U.S. Attorney John R. Lausch Jr., Northern District of Illinois, and Special Agent in Charge James M. Gibbons, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Chicago announced the plea.
David J. Cottrell, 30, of Niles, Illinois, enticed the underage victim into sending him sexually explicit photos of herself via online social messaging applications.
After collecting the photos, Cottrell informed the girl that he knew her real name, the name of her school, and her parents' jobs, and he threatened to post the images online and send them to her family unless the girl sent him additional, more explicit photos and videos, which she did.
Cottrell contacted the victim on a regular basis until her parents discovered the messages in 2017 and contacted law enforcement.
Cottrell pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of sexual exploitation of a child, which is punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison and a maximum of 30 years, and one count of possession of child pornography, which is punishable by up to ten years.
Cottrell admitted in a plea agreement that he similarly induced or attempted to induce four other minor victims into sending him sexually explicit images of themselves.
While communicating with the victims online, Cottrell used the screennames "sevendollarcab," "brightcitylights," "b88785," and "YouShallSubmitToMe Sir."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles W. Mulaney, Northern District of Illinois, represented the government.
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 25,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child exploitation material, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2019, more than 3,500 child predators were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative and more than 1,000 victims identified or rescued.
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. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196.
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 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.