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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Youth Coach Charged With Interstate Travel to Engage in Illicit Sexual Conduct, Transferring Obscene Material to a Minor

PROVIDENCE – A Connecticut little league vice president and coach arrested on January 25, 2019, by members of the Rhode Island State Police Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, and charged in state court with indecent solicitation of a child and disseminating and possessing child pornography, was re-arrested today at his Connecticut residence on federal charges that he allegedly traveled to Rhode Island to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor, that he allegedly transferred obscene material to a person he believed to be under the age of 16, and that he allegedly received and possessed child pornography.

The charges brought today in federal court against Christopher Merchant, 33, of Canterbury, Conn., are related to the same alleged incidents that resulted in his arrest on Rhode Island state charges brought by Rhode Island State Police on January 25.

According to court documents, it is alleged that on numerous occasions Merchant communicated via social media with an individual he believed to be a 14-year-old boy. The communications quickly became sexually graphic. It is alleged that during the exchanges, Merchant arranged to meet with the boy at a Warwick hotel to engage in illicit sexual activity. It is also alleged that Merchant electronically sent obscene photographs to the person he was communicating with.

Upon his arrival at the hotel on January 25, Merchant was arrested, and a review of his cell phone allegedly uncovered child pornography. He was held on state charges at the ACI until posting bail on Monday.

Merchant appeared today before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Patricia A. Sullivan on a federal criminal complaint charging him with interstate travel to engage in illicit sexual activity, transfer of obscene material to a person under the age of 16 years, receipt of child pornography, and possession of child pornography. He was ordered detained in federal custody.

The federal charges brought today are announced by United States Attorney Aaron L. Weisman, Lieutenant Colonel Kevin M. Barry, Acting Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police, and Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh.

A criminal complaint is merely 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.

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: 
19-6
Updated January 30, 2019