A parent reporting inappropriate Facebook messages from Tyler Coons to his 11 year-old daughter ended in an arrest for producing child pornography

Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Springfield, Mo., man pleaded guilty in federal court last week to using a minor to produce child pornography.

Tyler Coons, 25, of Springfield, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge M. Douglas Harpool to one count of using a minor to produce child pornography and one count of receiving and distributing child pornography.

The investigation began when the father of an 11-year-old girl filed a report with the Greene County Sheriff’s Department on June 3, 2014, after his daughter received inappropriate Facebook messages from Coons. When he signed into his daughter’s Facebook account, he saw messages from Coons and set up a meeting with him, pretending to be his daughter. The father met Coons on the playground of a local elementary school and told him to have no further contact with his daughter.

On June 20, 2014, a search warrant was obtained for Coons’s Facebook account and Facebook provided investigators with more than 8,000 pages of private messages exchanged between Coons and others. Many of the messages were from young girls between the ages of 11 and 17. Coons asked several of the girls to send him pictures of themselves without clothes on.

During numerous Facebook conversations with girls claiming to be under the age of 18, Coons refers to exchanging naked pictures via social media, including Snapchat, Instagram and Kik. Frequently, during the conversations, Coons refers to the females as “jailbait” and indicates that he is aware he is engaging in illegal activity.

On July 10, 2014, detectives from the Greene County Sheriff’s Department executed a search warrant at Coons’s residence. Coons was inside the residence with a 17-year-old female, who was identified as one of the minors who had sent him several pornographic images of herself. Coons admitted that he and the 17-year-old were sexually active, and that they could have been sexually active while she was still 16 years old. Coons also admitted that he sent a naked picture of himself to her.

In an interview with investigators, the 17-year-old victim said that she and another minor, whom she believed to be 15 years old, had engaged in sexual activity with Coons at his residence on the night before the search warrant was executed.

Under federal statutes, Coons is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison without parole, up to a sentence of 50 years in federal prison without parole. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. 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 James J. Kelleher. It was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Greene County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department.

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."