A Turlock man, who gained the confidence of young girls by posing as a teenager on social networking sites, has pled guilty to a charge of criminal sexual activity.
Brian Robert Garrett, 26, pled guilty on Monday in federal court to using the Internet to coerce a minor female to engage in criminal sexual activity.
Starting in January 2009, Garrett established an account on a social networking site, portraying himself as a teenage girl, in order to meet real teenage girls, according to court documents.
Garrett was able to gain the trust of a young Wisconsin girl and introduced her to a male “cousin” of his fictitious persona, said Department of Justice spokesperson Lauren Horwood.
According to the Department of Justice, the chats between Garrett and the girl became sexual in nature and he convinced her to send him sexually explicit images of her.
Garrett purchased a new digital camera for the victim and threatened to post sexually explicit images of her on the Internet if she did not send him additional sexually explicit pictures of herself. Garrett continued to communicate with the minor female by phone, e-mail and text messaging, even after the victim’s mother told him to stop harassing the minor female. He also offered to fly the girl out to California at his own expense, Horwood said.
Law enforcement was brought in to investigate and learned that Garrett had already been the subject of complaints to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children Cyber Tipline by two minor females in California. Garrett had approached them on a social networking site while using the identity of a 15-year-old male.
A search warrant was executed at Garrett’s residence on March 15, 2010, and investigators determined that, in addition to communicating with the victim in Wisconsin, he had used a peer-to-peer software program to search for images of child pornography. Several images of child pornography were found on his computer.
Upon entry of his guilty plea, Garrett was remanded into custody and is waiting a sentencing hearing on May 23. He is facing 10 years to life in prison.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces in Wisconsin, Sacramento and Fresno. It is also part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative by the Department of Justice to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, PSC mobilizes federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.
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