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FORMER HEBER SPRINGS GYMNASTICS STUDIO OWNER PLEADS GUILTY TO CHILD PORNOGRAPHY CHARGE

July 31, 2014

Little Rock Christopher R. Thyer, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, along with Special Agent in Charge Raymond R. Parmer, Jr., of the New Orleans Field Office for Homeland Security Investigations, announced today that Matthew Tinkle, age 27, of Heber Springs, Arkansas, entered a plea of guilty to receipt of child pornography.

“This case illustrates the necessity of keeping lines of communication open and active with your children,” stated Thyer. “We place our children in the care of others with the intent that their lives are safe and their innocence protected. The vast majority of the time, that is the case. When it is not, it is often a parent who discovers the violation. Thankfully, law enforcement was contacted and the end result is that this child predator will be serving federal time as well as state time. We take the safety and security of our children seriously. Together, we will work to ensure that those who seek to prey on our children are not given the opportunity to abuse our sons and daughters.”

“Child predators who use a position of trust in order to groom and abuse their victims are truly the worst of the worst,” said Raymond R. Parmer Jr., Special Agent in Charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New Orleans. “The victims of heartless degenerates like this defendant are exploited through their faith, trust and innocence: values we hold dear in our children that can be damaged beyond repair by the perversions these monsters subject them to. This case serves as an unfortunate reminder to parents that child predators are often hidden in plain sight, seeking access to their victims by any means available.”

The indictment charged Tinkle with two counts of receipt of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography. Pursuant to the plea agreement, Tinkle pled guilty to Count One of the Indictment which charged receipt of child pornography. In exchange for his guilty plea, the United States dismissed the remaining counts in the Indictment. Stipulations in the plea agreement included enhancements for use of a computer, for abuse of a position of trust, and for engaging in a pattern of activity involving the sexual abuse or exploitation of a minor. Tinkle will be required to register as a sex offender.

The charges in the Indictment were based on an investigation that began on December 20, 2012, when the Heber Springs Police Department was called to a residence in Heber Springs, concerning a 13 year old minor that had been molested. The investigation revealed that Tinkle, who was 25 at the time, had molested the minor on at least two occasions.

At all times relevant to the investigation, Tinkle was the owner of Tink’s Tumblers, a gymnastics studio in Heber Springs. The minor met Tinkle after attending "open gym" at Tinkle's gymnastics studio. The minor said that she and other kids would hang out with Tinkle at the gym and, on occasion, Tinkle would also give the minor and other kids rides to and from home.

During the investigation, the minor stated that she told Tinkle on multiple occasions that she was 13 years old. The minor also revealed that Tinkle did not charge her for using the gymnastics studio. The minor then informed Investigators that she had sent nude photographs of herself to Tinkle via text message.

An iPhone seized from Tinkle revealed images of the minor that met the federal definition of child pornography. The minor also stated that Tinkle sent her photographs of himself nude.

On February 27, 2014, Tinkle pled no contest in the Circuit Court of Cleburne County, Arkansas, to Rape. In exchange for his plea, the prosecuting attorney agreed to recommend that the court sentence Tinkle to a term of incarceration for a period of 120 months.

Tinkle faces not less than five years imprisonment to not more than 20 years imprisonment, five years to life of supervised release, and up to a $250,000 fine. The actual sentence will be decided by the Court at a later date.

The investigation was conducted by the Little Rock Office of Homeland Security Investigations Heber Springs Police Department, and the Arkansas State Police Crimes Against Children Division.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kristin Bryant.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. 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 better 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, including resources for parents, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

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Christopher R. Thyer

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