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Press Release

Naval Commander Sentenced To Federal Prison For Distributing Child Sexual Abuse Material And Retaining Classified National Defense Information

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

Jacksonville, Florida – Chief United States District Judge Timothy J. Corrigan sentenced Gregory Edward McLean (40, Jacksonville) today to 13 years and 4 months in federal prison for distributing child sexual abuse material and 10 years’ imprisonment for unlawfully retaining classified national defense information. The sentences are to be served concurrently. McLean entered a guilty plea on December 6, 2023.

According to court documents, state law enforcement in Rhode Island received a cyber tipline report that a user of a particular messaging application had shared videos depicting the sexual abuse of young children. The investigation identified the user as McLean, who was at that time an active-duty officer in the U.S. Navy, with the rank of Lieutenant Commander and serving as the Executive Officer of a ship stationed aboard a Naval Station Mayport in Florida. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) continued the investigation and identified additional instances where McLean had distributed child sexual abuse material. On Nov. 4, 2021, agents executed a federal search warrant at McLean’s residence, during which they seized numerous electronic devices and storage media. A forensic review revealed that several of these items contained files depicting the sexual abuse of minors. 

The forensic review also identified a flash drive – which had been recovered from McLean’s kitchen counter – that contained approximately 150 documents containing national defense information classified at the Secret level and 50 documents containing national defense information classified at the Confidential level. An investigation by NCIS and the FBI revealed that throughout his service as a naval officer, McLean had access to classified information and held a Top-Secret security clearance. McLean had entered into various agreements with the United States regarding the protection and proper handling of classified information and was aware that his home was not an authorized location to store classified national defense information. In particular, court documents identify two documents McLean unlawfully retained which contained national defense information related to foreign governments and their combat aircraft and naval capabilities. Disclosure of this information could reasonably be expected to cause damage and, in some instances, serious damage to the national security of the United States.  

“Protecting our children from abuse and safeguarding our national security interests are of paramount importance to my office,” said U.S. Attorney Roger B. Handberg. “The cooperation and diligent investigation by our law enforcement partners in this case ensured that both of those priorities were upheld through the successful federal prosecution of this case.”

“The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is dedicated to combatting the exploitation of the vulnerable members of our community and protecting the integrity of classified national security information,” said Special Agent in Charge Barbara Jackson, NCIS Southeast Field Office. "This sentencing serves as an example that such behavior will not be tolerated within the Navy ranks.”

“Gregory McLean’s retention of classified national defense information documents in an unauthorized location posed a significant risk to our country and military,” said Coult Markovsky, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Jacksonville Division. “Let this sentence serve as a pledge to all Americans that the FBI and our partners will doggedly pursue those who exploit their position of trust and risk our national security. In addition, the FBI and our law enforcement partners will continue to identify and hold those accountable who also pose a danger to the most vulnerable members of our society.”

This case was investigated by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Rhode Island State Police, with assistance from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys David B. Mesrobian and Kirwinn Mike and Trial Attorney Heather Schmidt of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.

This 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 May 30, 2024

Project Safe Childhood
National Security