Marionville Man Pleads Guilty to Child Exploitation
SPRINGFIELD, MO—Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Marionville, Mo., man pleaded guilty in federal court today to child sexual exploitation.
Darren Eugene Schaefer, 36, of Marionville, Mo., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge M. Douglas Harpool to using the Internet and cell phone to attempt to entice a minor to engage in illicit sexual activity.
A task force officer with the Southwest Missouri Cybercrimes Task Force investigated a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in May 2014 that Schaefer was contacting underage females on the social networking site MeetMe, asking them if they wanted to meet for sexual acts. Schaefer sent messages indicating that he was interested in sexual contact with seven underage females. After contacting the females using the instant message feature on MeetMe, Schaefer would attempt to move the conversations to cell phone text messages.
During the on-line communications between Schaefer and the underage female victims, Schaefer admitted to the victims that he was 35 years old, and stated that he preferred younger females. In one instance, one of the victims asked Schaefer why he posted his age on MeetMe as 14 years old if he was really 35. Schaefer replied that was the only way he could see underage females on this Web site and communicate with them. One victim asked him if he knew he could get in trouble for what he was doing. He replied he knew he could get in trouble but hoped he would not.
A federal search warrant was executed at Schaefer’s residence on June 17, 2014. Schaefer told officers that he talked to hundreds of girls on various social networking Web sites and that he had contacted underage girls several other times using MeetMe. Schaefer also admitted to meeting at least three underage girls for sexual intercourse over a 10-year period. He reported that he had met all three of them from social networking sites on the Internet. He met two of the girls in Nixa and one at Hood’s Truck Stop on 1-44.
Officers seized two laptop computers, two external hard drives and Schaefer’s cell phone. The laptops contained 103 images of child pornography. A total of 474 images of child erotica were located on the multiple electronic media.
Under federal statutes, Schaefer is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison without parole, up to a sentence of life in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $500,000. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ami Harshad Miller. It was investigated by the Southwest Missouri Cybercrimes Task Force, Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the FBI.
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 www.usdoj.gov/psc . For more information about Internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc and click on the tab “resources.”