Springfield Man Indicted for Purchasing Pornographic Images, Videos from Three Child Victims
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A Springfield, Mo., man has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges related to the sexual exploitation of three minor victims and receiving child pornography.
Jason T. Bernard, 52, was charged in a five-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Jefferson City, Mo., on Tuesday, May 24. The federal indictment replaces a federal criminal complaint that was filed against Bernard on May 5. Bernard has been detained in federal custody without bond since his arrest on May 5.
The federal indictment charges Bernard with three counts of the sexual exploitation of a child in which he used three different minors to produce child pornography from Sept. 14, 2018, to May 5, 2022. The indictment also charges Bernard with one count of using the internet and a cell phone to attempt to persuade one of those minor victims to engage in illegal sexual activity, and one count of receiving child pornography.
According to an affidavit filed in support of the original criminal complaint, the investigation began when nine CyberTips were received from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children on April 7, 2022. The nine CyberTips involved 145 images of child pornography that Bernard allegedly uploaded for storage to the Verizon Cloud.
As investigators identified Bernard as the account holder, the affidavit says, they received information from law enforcement in North Carolina that Bernard was involved in one of their investigations. Bernard allegedly sent funds through Cash App to one of the victims, a 15-year-old identified in court documents as “Jane Doe 1.” In exchange, the child victim sent pornographic images and videos of herself to Bernard. She told investigators that she was 13 years old when she began communicating with Bernard, whom she said paid her $250 a week or more. According to the affidavit, Bernard sent 48 payments to the child victim through Cash App between Oct. 14, 2020, and June 2, 2021, totaling $3,210.
Jane Doe 1 also told investigators that Bernard sent her alcohol and sex toys to use during her video recordings. Bernard offered to pay Jane Doe 1 $10,000 to meet him in person, the affidavit says, but she refused. She told investigators that Bernard sent her $500 to buy a train ticket to come meet him in person, but she kept the money then blocked Bernard from her social media accounts.
On May 5, 2022, law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at Bernard’s residence. Bernard, who allegedly purchased sexually explicit images or videos from at least two additional child victims, was arrested at his place of employment.
The charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie L. Wan. It was investigated by the Greene County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, Homeland Security Investigations, the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force, and the Beaufort County, North Carolina, Sheriff’s 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."