National Human Trafficking Prevention Month: U.S. Attorney and HSI Announce Partnership in Tornado Alley Child Exploitation and Trafficking Task Force
A federal jury found a Sand Springs man guilty Friday for sending hundreds of sexually explicit messages to a male minor and for touching the child in a sexual manner, announced U.S. Attorney Clint Johnson.
Jeremy Nicholas Botonis, 44, was convicted of one count of coercion and enticement of a child and one count of abusive sexual contact in Indian Country.
“Jeremy Botonis was a predator lying in wait. He gained the trust of a vulnerable child then exploited the child for his own sexual gratification,” said U.S. Attorney Clint Johnson. “The victim in this case displayed incredible strength as he testified in federal court this week. He is to be commended along with our law enforcement partners and federal prosecutor Chris Nassar for ensuring Botonis was held accountable for his predatory crimes.”
“Too often, deviant individuals like Botonis use social media to gain access to minors and build trust only to exploit them,” said Christopher Miller, acting Special Agent in Charge, HSI Dallas. “Thanks to the bravery and testimony of the young victim, the perpetrator was brought to justice, providing a stark reminder to predators who sexually exploit children that HSI will never relent in our collective law enforcement efforts to protect our most vulnerable citizens.”
On Aug. 24, 2019, while in the woods, Botonis placed his hand inappropriately on the clothed minor victim’s thigh and what the victim described as his “private area.” Then he attempted to kiss the victim while the two were in the woods. When the child rejected his advances and pulled away, Botonis became upset and concerned the child might reveal what had occurred to his parents. Later, he stood over the victim and told him to delete prior messages between the two that were associated with Botonis’ name and Facebook account, knowing that those conversations would incriminate him. He continued pressuring the child to delete the messages, and the victim eventually relented.
After the incident, Botonis continued to communicate with the victim using a Facebook page titled “Wolf Page.” Several weeks later, the victim’s father discovered sexually explicit messages sent to the victim from “Wolf Page.” The victim told his father the page belonged to Botonis, and disclosed that Botonis had attempted to kiss him in the woods during an outing. The child’s parents reported the crime to authorities. During the investigation, the child further disclosed to law enforcement that Botonis had also touched him inappropriately the day of the incident.
Federal agents were eventually able to extract messages from the victim’s cell phone and discovered 5,000 messages related to the case. Starting in May 2019, Botonis began grooming the victim by sending increasingly flirtatious and suggestive messages over Facebook messenger. Hundreds of sexually suggestive messages from Botonis were recovered where the defendant talked about the child’s looks, professed his “love” for the victim, made sexual innuendos, described sex acts, and further suggested the two should engage in the “furry lifestyle,” which for some is a sexual fetish that involves dressing in animal costumes and performing sex acts. At one point, the victim indicated to the defendant that he was uncomfortable and did not want to receive any further sexual messages.
At trial, federal prosecutors contended that at the time of the crime, Botonis was a 41-year-old man obsessed with a vulnerable 13-year-old child, bombarding the victim with messages nearly every day and even guilt tripping the victim when he did not respond in kind. Prosecutors argued that while Botonis tried to portray himself as non-threatening and trustworthy, he was, in reality, a predator hiding in the shadows, waiting for a vulnerable victim and the right moment to engage. Prosecutors then asked the jury to hold Botonis accountable for the crimes he committed against the child.
The jury returned guilty verdicts within two hours. Sentencing is tentatively set for September 2022.
The case was initially charged in Mayes County District Court but was dismissed in April 2021 due to lack of jurisdiction based on the Supreme Court’s decision in McGirt v Oklahoma. The U.S. Attorney’s Office then charged the case in federal court in May 2021.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the Mayes County Sheriff’s Office conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher J. Nassar and Stephanie Ihler prosecuted the case.