Lake Wales Youth Minister Charged With Production And Attempted Production Of Child Pornography
Tampa, FL - United States Attorney Robert E. O'Neill announces the return by a grand jury of an indictment charging Arnold Maurice Mathis (41, Lake Wales) with two counts of producing and attempting to produce of child pornography. If convicted, Mathis faces a mandatory minimum of 35 years, up to 50 years in federal prison for each count.
According to the indictment, between May and November 2011, Mathis, a previously convicted sexual offender, persuaded and attempted to persuade two minors to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing visual depictions of the conduct. At the time of the offenses, Mathis was a youth minister and associate pastor at Higher Praise Ministries in Lake Wales, Florida.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of the federal criminal laws, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
This case was investigated by the Polk County Sheriff's Office (PCSO), the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). It will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer L. Peresie.
Mathis is also being prosecuted on state charges by the Polk County State Attorney's Office.
This is another case 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. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc. For more information about internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc and click on the tab "resources."