FRESNO, Calif. - A Missouri man will be arraigned here later today on federal charges alleging he traveled from his home state to California to have sex with an underage girl he met while playing video games on Xbox LIVE.
Edward Preston Stout, 27, of Richmond Heights, Mo., was indicted by a federal grand jury in Fresno, Calif., earlier this week on charges of using interstate commerce to entice or coerce a minor to engage in sexual activity as well as traveling in interstate commerce to engage in illicit sexual activity.
The charges are the result of an investigation by the Fresno Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Fresno County Sheriff's Department and the Sanger Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of California.
Court documents reveal Stout developed a relationship with a 14-year-old girl from Sanger, Calif., in April 2008. He communicated with her while playing video games on Xbox LIVE and through MySpace accounts. The two also communicated by telephone and exchanged numerous text messages. Eventually the communications became sexual in nature, and Sanger sent the girl a cell phone as a 15th birthday present so their communications could be more frequent and private. Those communications included sending sexually explicit images of themselves to each other. On January 25, Stout drove from Missouri to California virtually nonstop and met the girl outside her Sanger home. He took the minor to a local motel and engaged in criminal sexual activity.
Stout's arraignment is scheduled for this afternoon. He has been detained as a flight risk and danger to the community since his initial appearance in federal court February 3. If convicted of the charges, Stout faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a possible maximum sentence of life.
This case was brought as part of ICE's Operation Predator and the Department of Justice's Project Safe Childhood, national initiatives targeting those who sexually exploit children. Led by United States Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
ICE's Operation Predator, which was launched in July 2003, has resulted in more than 11,500 arrests nationwide. The public is encouraged to report suspected child predators and suspicious activity by contacting ICE's 24-hour toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE; and NCMEC, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.