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Press Release

Two Joplin Men, One a Former Police Officer, Charged with Child Sexual Exploitation

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Missouri

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Two Joplin, Mo., men, one of whom is a former police officer, were charged in federal court this week for the sexual exploitation of children.

Gary McKinney, 43, and Anthony Helsel, 31, were charged in separate, but related, criminal complaints filed this week in the U.S. District Court in Springfield, Mo. McKinney remains in federal custody pending a detention hearing on Oct. 10, 2018. Helsel remains in federal custody pending a detention hearing on Oct. 9, 2018.

McKinney, a former police officer, was charged today. McKinney was an officer with the Joplin, Mo., Police Department for about seven years until May 20, 2006, after which he was employed as an officer elsewhere.

The federal criminal complaint charges McKinney with receiving and distributing child pornography over the internet. A related federal criminal complaint filed on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018, charges Helsel with using a minor to produce child pornography.

According to the affidavits filed in support of the federal criminal complaints, the investigation began on Sept. 17, 2018, when a federal agent received a CyberTip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Facebook reported that a user, later identified as Helsel, had uploaded a video file of the sexual assault of a 4-year-old victim.

On Oct. 2, 2018, an investigator with the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office notified local authorities that an undercover officer had made contact with Helsel during their investigation on the KIK messaging application. Helsel allegedly offered files of child pornography to the undercover officer and other members of the KIK group, and sent the undercover officer pornographic images of child pornography.

Law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at Helsel’s residence and seized his cell phone.  Helsel told officers he had engaged in sexual activity with a four-year-old child, and he had taken videos and still images of the abuse. Helsel told officers that when they arrived, he was conversing with another user on KIK, who was later identified as McKinney. Law enforcement officers assumed Helsel’s KIK account and user identity. On Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018, a federal special agent used Helsel’s KIK account to engage in chats with McKinney.

During a forensic examination of Helsel's cellular phone, the affidavit says, messages were located between McKinney and Helsel. Helsel sent several files, including child pornography, to McKinney on KIK on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018.

Law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at McKinney’s residence on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018, and seized his cell phone. Investigators located multiple chat conversations between McKinney and others, using an application called Telegram. In those conversations, the affidavit says, McKinney talks about children engaging in sexually explicit activity. Numerous files of child pornography allegedly were exchanged between the users.

The charges contained in these complaints 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.

These cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ami Miller. They were investigated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force, the Joplin Police Department, and the Kentucky State Attorney General’s Office.

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 . For more information about Internet safety education, please visit and click on the tab "resources."

Updated October 4, 2018

Project Safe Childhood