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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Missouri

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, September 12, 2022

Carthage Man Pleads Guilty to Child Sexual Exploitation

Faces at Least 15 Years in Prison

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A Carthage man pleaded guilty in federal court today to sexually exploiting a child from Michigan whom he met online.

Charles Ward Kuentzel, 26, pleaded guilty before U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge David P. Rush to one count of the sexual exploitation of a child.

By pleading guilty today, Kuentzel admitted that he used a child victim to produce child pornography from Sept. 1, 2020, to April 21, 2021.

According to today’s plea agreement, the mother of the child victim, identified in court documents as Jane Doe 1, contacted law enforcement in Michigan because her daughter was in an inappropriate online relationship with an adult man. The child victim told investigators she met Kuentzel in a public Discord game server, through which they communicated. FBI agents in in the Detroit division were able to identify Kuentzel in the online chats, in which Kuentzel and the child victim sent one another sexually explicit images of themselves. Kuentzel engaged in video chats and sexual conversations with the victim.

Officers executed a search warrant at Kuentzel’s residence on Aug. 26, 2021, and seized his cell phone and microSD card. Numerous images of the child victim, including child pornography, were found on the cell phone and the microSD card.

During the forensic examination, investigators also found several sexually explicit images of another child victim, identified in court documents as Jane Doe 2. She told investigators she was 14 years old when she met Kuentzel on Omegle, and they communicated through the Snapchat and Kik applications. Kuentzel requested nude images from Jane Doe 2, which she provided.

Under federal statutes, Kuentzel is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison without parole, up to a sentence of 30 years in federal prison without parole. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie L. Wan. It was investigated by the FBI, the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force, and the Canton, Mich., Police Department.

Project Safe Childhood

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc . For more information about Internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc and click on the tab "resources."

Topic(s): 
Project Safe Childhood
Updated September 12, 2022