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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Rhode Island

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Little League Coach Admits to Interstate Travel to Engage in Illicit Sex

PROVIDENCE – A Connecticut little league vice president and coach arrested by members of the Rhode Island State Police Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force on January 25, 2019, and charged in Rhode Island state court with indecent solicitation of a child and with disseminating and possessing child pornography, pleaded guilty in federal court in Providence today to travel in interstate commerce with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and transporting child pornography.

Appearing in U.S. District Court in Providence, Christopher L. Merchant, 33, of Canterbury, Conn., admitted that on numerous occasions he communicated via social media with an individual he believed to be a 14-year-old boy. The communications rapidly turned sexually graphic. Merchant admitted that during the exchanges he arranged to meet with the boy at a Warwick hotel to engage in illicit sexual activity. Merchant also admitted to sending obscene photographs to the person with whom he was communicating.

Merchant was in fact communicating with a member of law enforcement assigned to the ICAC Task Force. Upon his arrival at the hotel on January 25, 2019, Merchant was arrested by members of the ICAC Task Force. A review of his cell phone revealed images of child pornography stored in the phone.

Merchant was held on state charges at the ACI until posting bail on January 28. He was re-arrested on a federal arrest warrant two days after his release from the ACI. He was arraigned in federal court and released on $10,000 unsecured bond.

Today’s guilty plea in federal court to travel in interstate commerce with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and transporting child pornography is announced by United States Attorney Aaron L. Weisman, Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police Colonel James M. Manni, and Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh.

Merchant is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Court Chief Judge William E. Smith on June 28, 2019.

Travel in interstate commerce with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct is punishable by statutory penalties of up to 30 years in federal prison, a term of supervised release of 5 years to life, and a mandatory $5,000 special assessment imposed as required by the Justice for Victims Trafficking Act in child sexual exploitation cases where the Court makes a finding that the defendant is not indigent.

Transporting child pornography is punishable by statutory penalties of up to 20 years imprisonment, with a mandatory 5 years imprisonment, a term of supervised release of 5 years to life, and a mandatory $5,000 special assessment imposed as required by the Justice for Victims Trafficking Act in child sexual exploitation cases where the Court makes a finding that the defendant is not indigent.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John P. McAdams. 

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Topic(s): 
Project Safe Childhood
Component(s): 
Contact: 
Jim Martin (401) 709-5357
Press Release Number: 
19-25
Updated March 23, 2019