Aiken Man Who was Subject of Manhunt Sentenced in Federal Child Exploitation Case
AUGUSTA, GA—Russell Donald Benjamin, 46, of North Augusta, SC, was sentenced last week by United States District Court Judge J. Randal Hall to 90 months in prison, followed by 25 years of supervised release, for Interstate Travel With Intent to Engage in Illicit Sexual Conduct in violation of 18 U.S.C. §2423(b). Benjamin will be required to register as a sex offender. He pled guilty to the charge in October 2014.
The evidence at Benjamin’s guilty-plea and sentencing hearings showed that, in April 2014, Benjamin posted a message on Craigslist seeking “a daddy’s girl.” Law enforcement officers working with the FBI’s Cyber Crime/Child Exploitation Task Force (CCCX) responded to the message in an undercover capacity, indicating that a minor girl was available for a sexual encounter. Benjamin continued the communications for approximately three to four hours, and ultimately traveled from South Carolina to a location in Richmond County believing that he would be engaging in sexual activity with a young teen. At the time of his arrest, Benjamin possessed condoms and Viagra in a backpack in his truck.
Judge Hall attributed the lengthy sentence in part to Benjamin’s attempted escape and failure to appear just prior to his scheduled guilty-plea hearing. The day he was first expected to appear in court to plead guilty, Benjamin, who had been placed on strict bond conditions pending trial, removed a GPS ankle-monitor from his leg and fled from his home on foot. His disappearance led to a 24-hour manhunt conducted by the U.S. Marshal Service, the FBI, the U.S. Probation Office, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office, which ended in Benjamin’s arrest on Wednesday morning, October 22, 2014.
The FBI’s CCCX Task Force is made up of agents and investigators with the FBI, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Richmond County Sheriff’s Office and Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, all of whom were instrumental in this investigation. The case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, which is a nationwide U.S. Department of Justice initiative designed to protect children from exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorney’s Offices, 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 identify and rescue victims.
United States Attorney Edward J. Tarver commended the CCCX Task Force and Assistant United States Attorney Nancy Greenwood, for the investigation and prosecution of this case on behalf of the United States. For additional information, please contact First Assistant United States Attorney James D. Durham at (912) 201-2547