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Child Exploitation
04/05/2019

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Missouri sex offender sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for latest child pornography convictions

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A southwestern Missouri man was sentenced Friday to 15 years in federal prison for receiving and distributing child pornography.

This sentence resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force.

Bill Lawrence Jr., 57, of Branson, Missouri, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Roseann Ketchmark to 15 years in federal prison without parole; he pleaded guilty to the charges on Aug. 28, 2018.  The court also sentenced Lawrence to 15 years of supervised release after he completes his prison sentence.

Lawrence has prior convictions for possessing and promoting child pornography.

According to court documents, this investigation began with two tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). Lawrence had attached images of child pornography to at least two emails that were sent from his Google email account. The images depicted prepubescent children being sexually abused or in sexual poses.

Law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at Lawrence’s residence and seized his cellphone, which contained multiple images of child pornography. Lawrence admitted to officers that he used the Chat Hour application to both receive and distribute child pornography via the internet.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney James J. Kelleher, Western District of Missouri.

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 19,000 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 2018, more than 3,000 (3,191) child predators were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative and more than 850 (859) 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.

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Last Reviewed/Updated: 04/09/2019