Petersburg, Illinois, Man Charged with Sexual Exploitation of a Minor, Receipt, and Distribution of Child Pornography
PEORIA, Ill. – A federal jury deliberated for just under 90 minutes before returning a guilty verdict against Joseph Allen Wilcher, 40, of the 1800 block of Western Drive SW in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on October 6, 2021, for one count of attempted enticement of a minor and one count of traveling with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct. Sentencing for Wilcher has been scheduled for February 3, 2022, before U.S. District Judge James E. Shadid at the federal courthouse in Peoria, Illinois.
Over two days of testimony this week, the government presented evidence to establish that Wilcher arranged to meet an individual he believed to be a 15-year-old minor for sexual activity on the dating application MeetMe. Further evidence showed that Wilcher ultimately traveled from Cedar Rapids to Rock Island, Illinois, to meet the individual and engage in illicit sexual conduct.
Wilcher faces statutory penalties of 10 years to life imprisonment for the attempted enticement of a minor charge and up to 30 years imprisonment for the traveling to engage in illicit sexual conduct charge. Following the jury’s verdict, Wilcher was taken into the custody of the U.S. Marshals.
“This guilty verdict shows both the ongoing threat to our children and that law enforcement and prosecutors are working together to combat the threat,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Doug Quivey. “We will all collectively continue to work together to protect our children.”
“Children can be easily lured into the clutches of those who wish to betray and exploit them online, said David Nanz, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Springfield Division. “The FBI is committed to flushing out sexual predators with a sense of urgency to ensure the safety and well-being of our children. If you suspect someone is having inappropriate contact with a minor, report it to law enforcement immediately.”
Wilcher was arrested in November of 2020 as part of a Federal Bureau of Investigation, Springfield Division, operation conducted in Rock Island, Illinois. The operation was conducted with the assistance of the Rock Island Police Department, the Macomb Police Department, the Illinois State Police, the East Moline Police Department, the Galesburg Police Department, the Davenport Police Department, and the Knox County Sherriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Grant Hodges and Jennifer Mathew represented the government at trial.
The case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative by the Department of Justice to combat the epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by U.S. 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, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.