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Press Release

West Virginia Truck Driver Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison for Attempted Sex Trafficking of a Minor in Morton, Illinois

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Central District of Illinois

PEORIA, Ill. – A West Virginia over-the-road truck driver, Michael Leonard, 53, has been sentenced to fifteen years in prison, to be followed by a lifetime of supervised release, for attempted trafficking of a minor. Leonard will also be required to register as a sex offender and pay restitution totaling $49,000 to victims of child pornography, whose images were stored on his phone.

At the sentencing hearing before U.S. District Judge James E. Shadid, the United States presented evidence that Leonard initiated a conversation on an advertising website in August 2020 with an individual he believed to be a mother offering sex with her 9-year-old daughter. In August 2021, Leonard again initiated a text conversation, agreeing to pay $50 for sex with the minor girl. He planned to meet the girl and her mother at an agreed upon location in central Illinois, FBI agents then arrested Leonard upon his arrival. He admitted he was there to meet the minor girl and her mother and that he intended to have sex with the girl. He also admitted that his phone contained images of child pornography. Agents searched the phone and found hundreds of images and videos of child pornography.

Leonard was indicted in September 2021 and pleaded guilty in September 2022. He has remained in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service since his arrest.

The statutory penalties for attempted sex trafficking of a minor are fifteen years to life imprisonment, followed by five years to life of supervised release.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Springfield Office investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Keith Hollingshead-Cook represented the United States in the prosecution.

The case against Leonard 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

Updated April 6, 2023

Project Safe Childhood