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Press Release

Snapchat Predator Is Sentenced To 17.5 Years In Prison For Distribution Of Child Pornography

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

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A Charlotte man who used Snapchat to coerce a minor to share child pornography was sentenced to 17.5 years in prison today, announced Dena J. King, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. Sean Matthew Burney, 28, was also ordered to serve a lifetime of supervised release and will be required to register as a sex offender after he is released from prison.

Robert M. DeWitt, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in North Carolina, and Chief Johnny Jennings of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) join U.S. Attorney King in making today’s announcement.

According to filed court documents and today’s sentencing hearing, between February 21 and February 24, 2021, Burney used Snapchat to coerce a minor male victim to create and share videos and images that contained child pornography. The criminal investigation began once the minor victim’s mother contacted CMPD to report that her 14-year-old son was being blackmailed via Snapchat and was forced to send the blackmailer images and videos of the minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct.

According to court records, Burney represented himself as a female via Snapchat and contacted the victim. When the victim sent the sexually explicit images to Burney, the victim was under the impression that he was communicating with a female. Court records show that from that point on, Burney demanded additional child pornography from the victim, and threatened to post the victim’s sexually explicit images and videos on social media if the victim did not comply. Burney continued to ask the victim for additional child pornography, knowing the victim was 14 years old.

According to court documents, when the victim didn’t respond to Burney, the defendant posted on Snapchat the victim’s account name and a caption to contact him if people wanted videos.

Over the course of the investigation, law enforcement determined that the suspect Snapchat account belonged to Burney. A search warrant for the minor victim’s and Burney’s Snapchat accounts was executed. During a forensic analysis of material seized pursuant to the search warrants, law enforcement located the child pornography.

On October 19, 2022, Burney pleaded guilty to distribution of child pornography. He is currently in federal custody. He will be transferred to the custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility.

In announcing today’s sentence, U.S. District Judge Frank D. Whitney said that Burney’s predatory actions not only targeted a minor, but sought to take over his free will.

The FBI and CMPD handled the investigation.

Assistant United States Attorney Stephanie Spaugh, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte, prosecuted the case.

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

Updated March 30, 2023

Project Safe Childhood