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Former East Central Illinois Youth Pastor To Serve 30 Years In Prison For Sexual Exploitation Of Children

June 27, 2011

Urbana, Ill. – A former youth pastor and track coach, Andrew L. Thomas, 47, of Rossville, Ill., was sentenced on Friday, June 24, to serve 360 months (30 years) in federal prison for sexual exploitation of children. Chief U.S. District Judge Michael P. McCuskey accepted the terms of a stipulated plea agreement reached by the defendant and the government in March 2011 which recommended Thomas serve 30 years in prison; remain on supervised release for the remainder of his life following completion of his prison sentence; that Thomas register as a sex offender; and that Thomas be designated as a sexual predator. The federal sentence will be served concurrently with the sentence ordered in a related Vermilion County, Ill., circuit court case.

On Mar. 14, Thomas pled guilty to the five counts of sexual exploitation of minors as charged in the indictment returned by a federal grand jury in September 2010. Thomas has remained in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service since his arrest in September 2010, on the federal charges.

During the prior plea hearing, Thomas, a former youth minister at First Church of Christ in Rossville, Ill., admitted that he perpetrated an elaborate scheme to obtain sexually explicit images of minor-aged boys. Thomas disguised himself as a female, known as “Stephanie,” “Kayla,” “Jenn,” or Jessica” through social networking sites, e-mail accounts and through text messages using a Trac phone to make contact with minor-age boys. Thomas admitted he covertly enticed the minors, by sending them pornographic images of his female personae, to solicit pornographic images of the minor boys.

The charges were investigated by the Vermilion County Sheriff’s Department and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations. The Decatur Police Department also assisted in the investigation as a member of the working group. The case was prosecuted in cooperation with the Vermilion County State’s Attorney’s Office.

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