Pekin Man Pleads Guilty to Distribution of Child Pornography and Impersonating a U.S. Marshal
Peoria, Ill. – Arthur D. Wheeler, 30, of the 600 block of Harberts, South Pekin, Ill., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court today to one count of distribution of child pornography and one count of impersonating a federal officer. Wheeler entered his plea before Chief U.S. District Judge James E. Shadid. The agreement includes a stipulated sentence of 20 years in federal prison for distributing child pornography to run concurrent with a sentence of three years for impersonating a federal officer, subject to acceptance by the court. Sentencing has been scheduled for June 23, 2016.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald L. Hanna is prosecuting the case. The charges are the result of an investigation conducted by the U.S. Secret Service; task force members of the Central Illinois Cyber Crime Unit, including the Peoria County Sheriff’s Office and the Bloomington Police Department; the Pekin Police Department; Illinois State Police; and the U.S. Marshal’s Service.
According to court documents, in May 2015, Wheeler obtained nude photos from a minor female in Missouri by receiving them on his phone and by accessing the minor’s Facebook account. Wheeler appeared June 1, 2015, in the Circuit Court of Tazewell County seeking an order of protection against the minor’s family. Wheeler stated to the court that the minor’s family had threatened him because of his communications with the minor during the preceding two weeks. During the court proceeding, Wheeler produced his phone, which was ultimately seized and examined by law enforcement. The forensic review revealed that on three separate occasions, in late May and early June 2015, Wheeler used the cellphone’s text function to send naked images of the minor to approximately 120 people in the area code where the minor lives.
Wheeler also acknowledged during his plea hearing that on June 1, 2015, he impersonated a U.S. Marshal in an attempt to get information from an individual about the minor’s whereabouts.
Wheeler is a registered sex offender as a result of a prior conviction for a sex crime involving a minor in Illinois in 2011. He has remained in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service since he was arrested on Aug. 24, 2015.
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 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.