KY Federal-State Law Enforcement Combatting Growing Threat Of Child Exploitation During COVID Pandemic
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The United States Attorney’s Office, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), United States Secret Service, and the Kentucky Office of the Attorney General are asking the public to continue to be alert as state, local, and federal law enforcement combat significant amounts of child exploitation in Kentucky during the COVID pandemic.
U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman; Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron; Jerry C. Templet Jr., Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations Nashville; Robert Brown, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Louisville Field Office; Ralph Gerdes, Acting Special Agent in Charge Louisville Secret Service made the announcement today in an effort to protect Kentucky’s young people.
“The threat to our kids is very real and growing during this pandemic,” said U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman. “In Kentucky though, I could not be more proud of how law enforcement is working with a singularity of purpose across multiple agencies to protect our most vulnerable.”
“The responsibility to protect our children falls on all of us, and the cooperation and partnership among state and federal agencies is unprecedented,” said Attorney General Cameron. “At every level, we have a shared commitment to ending child exploitation and aggressively pursuing predators, and I am grateful for the dedication of our law enforcement community to seek justice on behalf of Kentucky’s children.”
Reports of child exploitation have increased significantly around the globe during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the FBI has received over 195 reports of incidents throughout the United States and in other countries in which a video teleconferencing participant was able to broadcast a video depicting child sexual abuse material (CSAM). The FBI considers this activity to be a violent crime, as every time child sexual abuse material is viewed, the depicted child is revictimized. Furthermore, anyone who inadvertently sees child sexual abuse material depicted during a virtual event is potentially a victim, as well.
Parents should be aware of several signs that may indicate their child is in danger. Including:
- Turning away from family and friends
- Receiving gifts through mail – from someone you don’t know
- Making calls to unknown numbers
- Taking extra steps to conceal online activity
- Having online friends they don’t know in real life
- Hiding their activity online
- Being overly protective of their devices
Some of the recent charged cases of child exploitation include cases investigated by the Kentucky law enforcement agencies listed above and tireless effort from numerous additional state and local partners. The Kentucky State Police has also been a critical partner in these cases as a foundational part of the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force.
- Thomas Matthew Follmer, 48, of Louisville, Kentucky, was charged April 20, 2020, for attempting to entice a minor to engage in sexual activity. The attempted enticement charge carries a mandatory minimum of 10 years’ imprisonment, maximum potential sentence of life in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000.00, followed by no less than 5 years and could be up to a life term of Supervised Release.
- Barrett Lawrence, 37, of Franklin, Kentucky, was charged on May 8, 2020, with attempted receipt of child pornography, accessing with intent to view child pornography, receipt of child pornography, and possession of child pornography. Due to a prior conviction for the attempted rape of a three-year-old, Lawrence faces enhanced penalties. The combined mandatory minimum sentence is 15 years and potential maximum sentence is 120 years in prison, followed by no less than 5 years and could be up to a life term of Supervised Release. The maximum potential fine is $1,000,000.00.
- Chase Bowman-Raines, 23, of Morganton, North Carolina, who resides at Fort Campbell, charged on April 21, 2020, with possession and distribution of child pornography. He faces not less than 5 years and no more than 20 years for distribution of child pornography; and not more than 20 years for possession of child pornography. The charges also carry terms of at least five years and could be up to any number of years, including life, of supervised release.
- Shasta Maria Coiles, 38, of Lewisport, Kentucky, was charged March 26, 2020, with two counts of production of child pornography and one count of distribution of child pornography. If convicted at trial, faces not less than 15 years and not more than 40 years for distribution of child pornography; and not less than 10 years and not more than 20 years for possession of child pornography.
- Matthew Lyons, 33, of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, was charged in late April for sex trafficking of a child, attempted production of child pornography, attempted online enticement, distribution and possession of child pornography. If convicted at trial, and due to his prior conviction, Lyons faces not less than 25 years and not more than 50 years in prison for production of child pornography; not less than 10 years and not more than life for the attempted enticement and sex trafficking of a child; not less than 15 years and not more than 40 years for distribution of child pornography; and not less than 10 years and not more than 20 years for possession of child pornography. The charges also carry terms of at least five years and could be up to any number of years, including life, of supervised release.
- The United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Kentucky worked closely with the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina leading to the arrest of Nathan Branham, 39, of Cheraw, South Carolina. The Criminal Complaint charged Branham with online enticement of a 13-year-old Louisville girl and transfer of obscene material to a minor. The combined penalties include a 10-year mandatory minimum term of imprisonment, maximum potential sentence of life, a $250,000.00 fine and Supervised Release of five years up to life.
There is no parole in the federal criminal justice system.
A federal complaint is a written statement of the essential facts of the offense charged and must be made under oath before a United States Magistrate Judge. The charge set forth in a complaint is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Online child exploitation materials can be reported with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) at 1-800-843-5678 or online at www.cybertipline.org.