Repeat Offender Pleads Guilty to Possession of Child Sexual Abuse Material after Downloading Hundreds of Images
BANGOR, Maine: A Florida man was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Bangor for sexually exploiting a child and distributing child sexual abuse material (“child pornography”).
U.S. District Judge Lance E. Walker sentenced Wesley Deal (aka “Wesley Troy Harris”), 43, to 20 years in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release. Deal pleaded guilty on April 7, 2023.
According to court records, beginning in August 2020, Deal posed as a teenage boy to engage with an 11-year-old from Maine through Instagram. Deal convinced the child to send him sexually explicit images and videos then threatened to post the child sexual abuse material on Snapchat and Instagram if the victim did not send more. During the investigation, law enforcement seized Deal’s cell phone. A forensic examination of the phone uncovered more than 700 child sexual abuse images as well as evidence of Google Hangouts chats similar to those Deal had with the Maine victim.
In sentencing Deal, Judge Walker said, "That type of terrorism would have left the victim in an ocean of despair. The trauma you imposed on this girl is something that she and her family will have to unpack for years.”
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) investigated the case with assistance of multiple local law enforcement agencies in Maine and Florida. U.S. Attorney Darcie McElwee also recognized the invaluable computer crimes expertise of forensics examiner Holly Huntington and Lieutenant Brent Beaulieu of the Bangor Police Department.
“It is far too easy for predators like Mr. Deal to hide behind fake profiles online to engage with and exploit children like this young victim,” McElwee said. “The internet makes children from across Maine accessible targets. It is so important for parents and guardians of children accessing the internet – whether it’s playing Roblox, Minecraft or simply believed to be engaging with their friends on social media – to talk to them regularly and warn them never to engage with anyone they haven’t met in real life and to never share intimate images, videos, or livestreams with anyone, even someone they know, love and trust.”
Reports of child sexual exploitation are increasing: In 2022, The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) CyberTipline received 32 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation. That included more than 80,000 reports of online enticement of children for sexual acts, an increase of 82% from 2021 to 2022, and more than 31 million reports of child sexual abuse materials. Victimization can take place across every platform, including social media, messaging apps, gaming platforms, etc. To make a CyberTipline Report, visit https://report.cybertip.org/. If you are in Maine and you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted or abused, you can get help by calling the free, private 24-hour statewide sexual assault helpline at 1-800-871-7741.
Project Safe Childhood: This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Department’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, 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, visit www.justice.gov/psc.
Andrew McCormack, Assistant United States Attorney (207-945-0373)