PEORIA, Ill. – A Tennessee man, Ryan Dale Gross, 26, of the 3400 block of Berkshire Circle, Johnson City, has been sentenced to 264 months imprisonment for four counts of sexual exploitation of a minor. The counts are to be served concurrently. Following his release, Gross must serve a 10-year term of supervised release and will be required to register as a sex offender.
At the sentencing hearing, the government presented evidence that in late 2020, a minor child residing in the Central District of Illinois was contacted over Snapchat by a person later identified as Gross. Gross falsely told the minor child he was 16 years old, and the chats progressed into Gross requesting sexually explicit photos of the minor victim despite knowing the victim’s age. At first, the minor refused, but Gross eventually coerced the victim into sending numerous images and videos that were sexually explicit in nature. In the chat conversations recovered by law enforcement, Gross threatened to expose the nude photos if the minor did not continue to send sexually explicit materials to his liking. Agents were able to trace the Snapchat conversations and images back to Gross and his residence in Johnson City, Tennessee. Agents executed a search warrant on Gross’s house in February 2021 and confirmed he was the account holder who had exploited the minor.
At the hearing, U.S. District Court Judge James E. Shadid stated that the minor victim endured a “nightmare” at the hands of Gross’ conduct in the case, describing the threats as cold, mean, and calculated.
Gross was indicted in March 2021 and pleaded guilty in April 2022. A preliminary forfeiture order was issued for Gross’ Apple iPhone used in the commission of the offense.
The statutory penalties for sexual exploitation of a minor are 15 to 30 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $250,000, and up to a lifetime of supervised release for each count. Special assessments under the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act are also possible.
The Putnam County Sheriff’s Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine G. Legge represented the government in the prosecution.
The case against Gross 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