Houston man admits to exploiting minors he met online
HOUSTON – A 41-year-old Houstonian has entered guilty pleas to coercion and enticement of a minor as well as sexual exploitation of a child, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.
Thomas Douglas Butler had met a 14-year-old female on a social media/video chat site. After grooming her through their communications, he traveled to San Antonio to pick her up and bring her to his residence in a Houston hotel. While there, the victim reported Butler engaged in sex acts with her, provided her with alcohol on numerous occasions and gave her very little food.
Authorities located the victim Aug. 18, 2020, reunited her with her family and arrested Butler.
Law enforcement searched Butler’s hotel residence and seized several documents and electronic devices. This led to the discovery of a second minor female victim who resided out of state. Butler had groomed her to perform sexually illicit behavior such as exposing her genitals in a lewd and lascivious manner during Skype video sessions, some of which he recorded.
Butler then coerced her into continuing to engage in sexually charged chats. If she failed to comply, he would threaten to notify her parents or others of their relationship and potentially distributing the videos he created from the Skype chats.
U.S. District Judge Alfred Bennett accepted the plea and set sentencing for June 24. If convicted, Butler faces up to life in prison for the coercion and enticement as well as another minimum of 15 and up to 30 years for sexual exploitation of a child. Both charges also carry potential fines up to $250,000. He could also be ordered to pay thousands of dollars in special assessments and restitution.
Found to be a danger to the community and a flight risk, Butler has been and will remain in custody pending that hearing.
The FBI conducted the investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherri L. Zack is prosecuting the case, which was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood (PSC), a nationwide initiative the Department of Justice (DOJ) launched in May 2006 to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. U.S. Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section leads PSC, which marshals federal, state and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children and identifies and rescues victims. For more information about PSC, please visit DOJ’s PSC page. For more information about internet safety education, please visit the resources tab on that page.