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Press Release

Jacksonville Man Arrested And Charged With Attempting To Entice And Meet A 12-Year-Old Child To Engage In Sexual Activity

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Florida

Jacksonville, Florida – United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces that Zachary Ray Ellis (45, Jacksonville) has been arrested and charged with using the internet to attempt to entice a 12-year-old child to engage in sexual activity.  Ellis faces a minimum mandatory penalty of 10 years, up to life, in federal prison, and a potential life term of supervised release. At the time of his arrest on February 14, 2023, Ellis was an employee of a media and technology company.

According to court documents, on August 26, 2022, an undercover FBI agent, who was posing online as the mother (the “mother”) of an 11-year-old “child,” received a message from the user “Twiztd,” subsequently identified as Ellis, on a particular social media application. During the conversation, which eventually switched to text messages, the “mother” advised that she was looking for the “child” to get some experience and Ellis stated that he “love[s] young girls. 10-12 fav age.”  Ellis detailed his sexual interest in the “child,” telling the “mother” about the sexual acts he wanted to perform on the “child.” During the messaging, Ellis spoke directly with the “child” via text message, grooming her, and directing her on how to perform a sex act. The conversation then continued on and off throughout September, October, and November 2022, with Ellis reinitiating contact each time, checking to see if the “mother” had found anyone to help her with the “child” yet. 

On February 5, 2023, Ellis again reached out to the “mother” to find out about her progress with finding someone for the “child.” From February 6 through February 13, 2023, Ellis detailed his interest in the “child,” who was now 12 years old, including specific sexual activities he wanted to engage in with her. Ellis discussed meeting the “mother” first and then if the meeting went well, taking the “child” out separately on his own. On February 13, 2023, Ellis made arrangements to meet with the “mother” at a prearranged location and was arrested by FBI agents when he arrived. 

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Ashley Washington.

It is another case brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit

Updated February 15, 2023

Project Safe Childhood