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July 7, 2022Springfield, MO, United StatesChild Exploitation

Springfield man pleads guilty to child sexual exploitation following HSI, joint law enforcement partner investigation

Faces at least 15 years in prison following investigation in the United Kingdom

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A Springfield man who was the subject of an undercover investigation in the United Kingdom pleaded guilty in federal court July 6 to child sexual exploitation charges following a joint Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and law enforcement partners investigation.

Kody Ryan Kelso, 31, pleaded guilty before U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge David P. Rush, to one count of the sexual exploitation of a child to produce child pornography and to one count of using the internet and a cell phone to coerce and entice a child under the age of 14 to engage in illicit sexual activity. Kelso has been detained in federal custody without bond since his arrest, June 16, 2021.

Both offenses Kelso pleaded guilty to are related to an undercover law enforcement operation in the United Kingdom. Kelso used an online service named My LOL, a teen dating site with chat features, to contact a person he believed to be a 13-year-old girl, but in reality, was an undercover law enforcement officer. Kelso asked her to have sexual intercourse with him and repeatedly requested sexually explicit images during online chats from Jan. 7 to Feb. 2, 2021. Kelso also provided his email address and asked her to use Google hangouts to send sexually explicit photos outside the My LOL platform.

In addition to the information from the United Kingdom, investigators received two cyber tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) regarding Kelso’s online activity and posting a child pornography video online.

On June 16, 2021, Springfield police officers executed a search warrant at Kelso’s apartment, and he was arrested. Officers seized 19 electronic devices. Investigators found 26 images and 39 video files of child pornography on Kelso’s computers.

Under federal statutes, Kelso is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison without parole, up to a sentence of life in federal prison without parole. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.

The case was investigated by HSI, the Springfield Police Department, and the FBI. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie L. Wan.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys' 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 individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), 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 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

Learn more about HSI’s mission to combat child exploitation in your community on Twitter, @HSIKansasCity.