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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Brooklyn Man Charged With Traveling To Charlotte To Engage In A Sexual Activity With A Minor Appears In Federal Court

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A New York man appeared in federal court today, on charges of traveling from Brooklyn to Charlotte for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct with a minor, announced Andrew Murray, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.  Manuel Oppenheimer, 26, had his initial appearance this morning before U.S. Magistrate Judge David S. Cayer.

John A. Strong, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in North Carolina; Sheriff Eddie Cathey of the Union County Sheriff’s Office; and Chief Kerr Putney of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department join U.S. Attorney Murray in making today’s announcement.

“The internet has been an essential tool during the COVID-19 outbreak, helping children continue their studies through remote learning and stay connected with teachers, classmates, friends and family through social media and other apps,” said U.S. Attorney Murray. “However, more unmonitored screen time can lead to an increased risk of exposure to all the dangers that lurk on the internet, including child predators who leverage social media to target and exploit innocent children. I urge parents to take proper precautions and be extra-vigilant in monitoring their children’s online activity, so kids can continue to take advantage of all the positive things the digital world has to offer and safely use their electronic devices to enrich their lives, while staying safe from predators and other online threats.”

According to allegations contained in the federal charging document, on April 16, 2020, the Union County Sheriff’s office received information regarding a missing 14-year-old female, who was possibly located in Charlotte with an adult male, later identified as Oppenheimer. CMPD officers were able to locate the minor at a residence in Charlotte, and the minor was returned to Union County.  Law enforcement subsequently arrested Oppenheimer.

According to allegations in the criminal complaint, law enforcement determined that Oppenheimer met the minor on “Omegle,” a free online chat website, and later began talking to the minor on “Snapchat,” a mobile app that allows users to share messages, photos, and videos.  The federal criminal complaint alleges that Oppenheimer wanted to meet the minor in April due to the COVID-19 outbreak, otherwise it was possible their meeting would need to be postponed up to a year, until the outbreak was over.   The criminal complaint further alleges that the defendant was aware that the victim was a minor, and that he traveled from New York to Charlotte to meet with the minor for the purpose of engaging in sexual contact.

Oppenheimer is charged with one count of traveling across state lines for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity with a minor. He is currently in federal custody.

The charges contained in the criminal complaint are allegations.  The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law.

U.S. Attorney Murray thanked the FBI, the Union County Sheriff’s Office, and CMPD for their investigation of this case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Alfredo De La Rosa, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte, is prosecuting the case.

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For additional information and helpful tools about children’s online safety please visit the FBI’s Safe Online Surfing website and view this video.

Also visit the Justice Department’s website to learn more about measures parents, guardians, caregivers and teachers can take to help protect children from becoming victims of online child predators.

Immediately report suspected online enticement or sexual exploitation of a child by calling 911, contacting the FBI at tips.fbi.gov, or filing a report with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) at 1-800-843-5678 or report.cybertip.org.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse, launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

 

Topic(s): 
Coronavirus
Project Safe Childhood
Updated April 28, 2020