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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Ohio

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, March 28, 2019

Berea man indicted after he allegedly contacted several children between the ages of 12 and 15 and coerced them into sending him sexually explicit images

A Berea man was indicted in federal court after he allegedly contacted several children between the ages of 12 and 15 and coerced them into sending him sexually explicit images.

Cody Swinnerton, 24, of Berea, was indicted on three counts of sexual exploitation of children, one count of receipt of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography.

According to court documents:

The Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force received a tip that Swinnerton appeared to be enticing and coercing minors to produce sexually explicit images. Swinnerton controlled multiple accounts and targeted minors between the ages of 12 and 15 on Instagram and Facebook.

Swinnerton contacted the victims’ friends and family to coerce the victims into producing more images. He also threatened the victims in an effort to get them to produce sexually explicit images. Further investigation revealed potential victims in Ohio, Tennessee, Iowa, Texas, Australia, Austria and France.

A search warrant was executed at the home where Swinnerton lives in Berea on January 25. Relatives said Swinnerton was on vacation in Australia at the time. A review of his computer revealed several images of child pornography.

These alleged crimes took place between 2013 and 2018, according to court documents.

“This case demonstrates how predators will target our children over social media,” U.S. Attorney Justin E. Herdman said. “Parents and trusted adults need to make it their business to know who their kids are communicating with. We will continue to work with law enforcement agencies to prosecute these predators.”

“This case is a disturbing reminder that international borders are no longer a hindrance for online predators,” said Steve Francis, special agent in charge of HSI for Michigan and Ohio. “However, this arrest should assure victims around the world that Homeland Security Investigations and our partners in the international law enforcement community are committed to aggressively targeting those engaged in these heinous acts.”

"Swinnerton groomed and gained the trust of these young boys, then turned against them for his own gratification," said David Frattare, Ohio ICAC commander. "Victims often get caught up in this vicious cycle and feel they have no option but to comply."

If convicted, the defendant’s sentence will be determined by the Court after review of factors unique to this case, including the defendant’s prior criminal record, if any, the defendant’s role in the offense and the characteristics of the violations.  In all cases, the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum and, in most cases, it will be less than the maximum.

The investigation is ongoing

This investigation is being conducted by Homeland Security Investigations, the Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, HSI-Canberra, the Australian Federal Police and Australian Border Force. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Carol M. Skutnik.

A charge is only an allegation  and is not evidence of guilt.  A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Topic(s): 
Project Safe Childhood
Component(s): 
Contact: 
Mike Tobin 216.622.3651 michael.tobin@usdoj.gov
Updated March 28, 2019