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Press Release

St. Louis Sex Offender Caught in Online Sex Sting

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Missouri

ST. LOUIS – A man from St. Louis, Missouri was arrested by the FBI Friday on a federal charge that accuses him of being caught in an online sex sting.

James Wessley Rankin, 46, was charged by complaint in U.S. District Court in St. Louis Friday with one count of transfer of obscene material to a minor.

An affidavit filed in support of the complaint says Rankin responded to a posting on an anonymous chat site by an undercover detective with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department in California. Rankin, using the screen name “Lonely Nerd,” struck up a conversation with the detective, who was pretending to be a 14-year-old girl. Rankin sent the “teen” an obscene picture and began making plans to pick her up from her home, the affidavit says.

Rankin is listed on Missouri’s sex offender registry after being found guilty in Greene County Circuit Court of first-degree statutory rape, the affidavit says. He was sentenced in March 2021, to five years in prison. He was also found guilty in Christian County Circuit Court of endangering the welfare of a child and domestic assault in 2019 and sentenced to probation and shock incarceration time. 

At the time of his arrest, Rankin was living at a locked transition house in St. Louis that allowed him passes to go to work during the day, the affidavit says.

Rankin appeared in court Friday and has been ordered jailed.

Charges set forth in a criminal complaint are merely accusations and do not constitute proof of guilt.  Every defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The case was investigated by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jillian Anderson is prosecuting the case.

Updated January 13, 2023

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