EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. – In a U.S. District courtroom Tuesday, a federal jury returned guilty verdicts against a Belleville man accused of two attempted sex crimes against a minor, after he tried to meet with an alleged 15-year-old girl in Collinsville.
The jury found Gerald S. Sewell, 59, guilty of one count of attempted enticement of a minor and one count of travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct. Sewell’s sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 20, 2023.
“As technology becomes more integrated into our daily lives, internet safety is critical for healthy development in children of all ages,” said U.S. Attorney Rachelle Aud Crowe. “Fortunately, the FBI is working aggressively to remove online predators looking for children to abuse, and I’m grateful for their partnership.”
"There is an inherent risk to children anywhere the opportunity exists to communicate online. That’s why the FBI continues to be proactive in our efforts to protect them, casting a wide net over the various online applications and internet platforms where children are vulnerable," said FBI Springfield Field Office Acting Special Agent in Charge Shannon Fontenot. "Investigations like these demonstrate the outstanding work achieved in a collaborative environment with our law enforcement partners."
Sewell was one of 14 defendants charged in June 2020 as the result of an FBI-led operation involving multiple federal and state law enforcement agencies that targeted online predators.
According to court documents and evidence presented during the trial, Sewell initiated a conversation online with an FBI agent posing as a 15-year-old girl. Using sexually-explicit language, he made plans to meet with the purported girl for sex at a house in Collinsville. Sewell was arrested at the scene once he arrived.
In an interview with law enforcement, Sewell stated he was living at a friend’s house in Missouri and therefore had crossed over state lines to engage in the criminal sexual activity.
The operation was led by the FBI Springfield Field Office with assistance from the FBI St. Louis Field Office, U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations, the Belleville Police Department, the Collinsville Police Department, the Edwardsville Police Department, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, the Illinois State Police, the Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville Police Department, the St. Louis County Police Department, the Swansea Police Department, and the U.S. Secret Service. Additional assistance was provided by the U.S. Marshals Service, the Alton jail, the Monroe County jail, and the St. Clair County jail.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Laura Reppert and Zoe Gross are prosecuting the case.