FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS, Illinois – Six other men from Missouri and Illinois face federal charges for attempting to engage in sexual activity with minors.
The investigation was conducted by FBI-Springfield, with assistance from FBI-St. Louis, US Air Force Office of Special Investigations, St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office, Carlyle Police Department, Collinsville Police Department, Edwardsville Police Department, State Police Illinois, University of Southern Illinois Police Department-Edwardsville, Madison County State Attorney’s Office, Alton Police Department, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, Macoupin County Sheriff’s Office and Marion County Sheriff’s Office.
• Eric E. Hamilton, II, 22, of Maryland Heights, Missouri, is charged with attempting to seduce a minor and cross state borders with intent to engage in unlawful sexual behavior.
• Godfrey C. Hubbard, 52, of Sorento, Illinois, is charged with attempted seduction of a minor.
• Justin Schneider, 33, of Edwardsville, Illinois, is charged with attempted seduction of a minor.
• Christopher M. Simmons, 30, of St. Louis, Missouri, is charged with attempted commercial sex trafficking of a child, attempted seduction of a minor and crossed state borders with intent to engage in illicit sexual behavior.
• Michael James Smith, 39, of Barnhart, Missouri, is charged with attempted seduction of a minor.
• James Tiroch, 37, of Florissant, Missouri, is charged with attempted seduction of a minor.
The cases are the result of an FBI-led operation involving multiple federal and state law enforcement agencies aimed at rooting out internet users who attempt to meet children for sexual purposes. The six men were indicted by federal complaint. The crimes were allegedly committed in the Southern District of Illinois. US Attorney Steven D. Weinhoeft and FBI-Springfield Special Agent in Charge Sean M. Cox made the announcement.
“Children are vulnerable to sexual exploitation on the Internet,” said US prosecutor Weinhoeft. “This is why we continually update our investigative techniques and throw a wide network on a variety of online applications and other internet platforms where children are at risk. To all those who attack our children, know this: the police are watching and you will be caught. “
“The FBI works tirelessly with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to stop child predators in the hopes of preventing what could be a life of trauma for the victims,” he said. said SAC Cox. “Kids tend to trust online and will befriend strangers of any age or gender. Offenders take advantage of this naivety and target children who openly interact with others online or have a strong social media presence. Parents and guardians are the first line of defense in preventing access to their children. Talk to your kids, find out what they’re doing online, and if you suspect any suspicious activity, don’t hesitate to report it to the FBI.
The six defendants are accused of using the Internet to entice someone under the age of 17 to engage in illegal sexual activity and to go to a specific location to engage in sexual acts with a minor. Some of the defendants have reportedly traveled across state borders and / or offered to pay for sex, resulting in additional charges. Several of them are said to have had items with them when they were arrested, including alcohol, sex toys, condoms and candy. No actual minors were injured during the two-day operation.
If found guilty, the defendants each face at least 10 years in prison and could receive as much as life behind bars. Crossing state borders to have sex with a minor carries a sentence of up to 30 years in prison. All offenses are also punishable by possible life on probation and fines of up to $ 250,000.
Pending trial, the six defendants will be held without bail or released under electronic surveillance and other strict conditions, as required by federal law for these offenses.
A complaint is simply an accusation against a defendant. By law, a defendant is presumed innocent of the charge until his guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of a jury.
The cases will be continued by Deputy U.S. Attorneys Karelia Rajagopal and Ali Burns.