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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Massachusetts

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Illinois Man Charged with Attempted Sexual Exploitation of Boys through Online Video Games

Defendant Threatened to Rape and Kill Young Boys

BOSTON – Zack Sawyer, 30, was charged in a criminal complaint in U.S. District Court in Springfield with one count of sexual exploitation of children.

According to the complaint, Sawyer used online interactive video games including X-Box Live and MineCraft to communicate with at least eight boys aged 10 to 13 years old in Massachusetts, Illinois, and Virginia.

Specifically, in March 2010, Sawyer allegedly used X-Box Live to contact 12-year-old boys from Roselle, Ill.  Sawyer asked one boy to send him nude photographs and the addresses and phone numbers of the boy’s friend, and engaged the other boy in sexually explicit chats.  When the second boy blocked Sawyer from the X-Box Live system, Sawyer responded with a death threat.

In May 2010, Sawyer used X-Box Live to allegedly contact two 13-year-old boys in Hampshire County, Mass.  Sawyer asked one boy to send him nude photographs, and when the boy refused, Sawyer threatened to rape him and kill him.  Sawyer asked the second boy to send him naked pictures and when the boy refused, Sawyer also threatened to rape him, claiming that he had a drug that would paralyze people.

In August 2010, Sawyer allegedly used X-Box Live to contact a 12-year-old boy in Rockton, Ill.  Sawyer asked the boy to send him naked pictures and to provide his address.  When the boy refused, Sawyer told him, “I don’t wanna have to do anything bad.”  In January 2011, Sawyer used X-Box Live to contact two 13-year-old boys from Lockport, Ill.  Sawyer engaged both boys in sexually explicit conversations and threatened to kill them and their families if they told anyone about his contact with them.

In early August 2014, after Sawyer had been notified that he was the subject of a Massachusetts arrest warrant based upon his solicitation of the two Hampshire County boys, Sawyer used MineCraft to contact a 10 year-old boy in Loudon County, Va.  Sawyer sent the boy a picture of his penis, and asked the boy to send him a similar photograph.  On two occasions, the boy used Skype to show Sawyer his genitals.  In one online chat, Sawyer admitted to the boy that he was a “truck driver on the run from the cops.”  Sawyer was ultimately arrested on Dec. 23, 2014.

The charging statute provides for a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years and a maximum of 30 years in prison, a mandatory minimum of five years and a maximum of a lifetime of supervised release, a fine of $250,000 and restitution.  Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties.  Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz and Colonel Timothy P. Alben, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police, made the announcement today.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven H. Breslow of Ortiz’s Springfield Branch Office.

Updated April 22, 2015