FBI Undercover Operation Leads to Federal Charges For 14 Men Attempting To Meet Minors For Sex | USAO-SDIL

        Fairview Heights, Ill. – U.S. Attorney Steven D. Weinhoeft and FBI Special Agent in Charge Sean M.
Cox announced today that 14 men have been federally charged for attempting to engage in sexual
activity with minors. The cases are the result of an FBI led operation involving multiple federal
and state law enforcement agencies that targeted online predators attempting to meet minors for
sex. Over 50 law enforcement agents were involved in the operation.

        U.S. Attorney Steven Weinhoeft said, “Instead of lurking on playgrounds, modern predators hide
behind electronic devices using social media and texting apps to access young children.” Weinhoeft
continued, “Serious dangers are no further away than a child’s cell phone or tablet, and we
strongly urge parents to monitor their children’s online activity, be aware of who their children
are talking with, and have conversations about how to stay safe online.”

        SAC Cox echoed those remarks: “Over this past weekend, FBI Agents from Springfield and St. Louis
partnered with law enforcement to conduct an operation to identify child predators. These are some
of the most difficult, and yet the most important, investigations we work with our partners to make
a positive impact in our communities and protect our children. In today’s world, children have a
much larger presence on social media platforms than they had in the past, which places them at far
greater risk of becoming a victim to online sexual predators. These arrests should serve as a
reminder to parents everywhere of the importance of monitoring the computer usage of their children
and staying active in their lives.”

        During the two-day operation, undercover agents pretended to be minors in a variety of online
texting, social media and message board platforms and apps. All of the defendants contacted these
profiles online, engaged in sexually explicit discussions with the undercover agents and arrived at
a residence with the intent to engage in sexual acts with minors. Some of the defendants also
propositioned the undercover agents to send them pornographic photos, traveled across state lines
for the purpose of illicit sexual activity with a minor, and/or offered to pay money to engage in
sexual activity with a minor. All of the defendants were arrested after arriving at the undercover
residence. Several defendants arrived with items intended for the fictitious minors, including
alcohol, sex toys, lubricant, condoms, methamphetamine, and in one case, a dog leash and a dog
collar with the name of the undercover profile engraved on it. No actual minors were harmed.

        All of the defendants were charged by criminal complaint between June 28-29, 2020. U.S. Attorney
Weinhoeft said, “Sex trafficking and child exploitation continue to impact our communities, and we
will aggressively enforce the law against those who would prey upon children.”

        The identities of the 14 men who were charged in the East St. Louis Division of the United States
District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, as well as their charges, are set out in the
table below:

Name Age City Charges
Brett Brimberry 28 Glen Carbon, IL Attempted Enticement of a Minor
Richard L. Britt 38 Granite City, IL Attempted Enticement of a Minor; Interstate
Travel to Engage in Illicit Sexual Conduct
Urich Gaines 32 Belleville, IL Attempted Enticement of a Minor
Kayln E. Hoggat 27 Bridgeport, IL

Attempted Enticement of a Minor; Attempted
Production of Child Pornography

Kevin Kamler 30 O’Fallon, MO Attempted Enticement of a Minor
Brian Lotz 56 Collinsville, IL Attempted Enticement of a Minor
Anthony Parrish 33 Swansea, IL Attempted Enticement of a Minor
Philip M. Reis 55 O’Fallon, IL Attempted Enticement of a Minor
Gerald S. Sewell 56 Belleville, IL Attempted Enticement of a Minor: Interstate
Travel to Engage in Illicit Sexual Conduct
James R. Sears 35 Bridgeport, IL Attempted Enticement of a Minor
Travis Shubert 29 Granite City, IL Attempted Enticement of a Minor
Preston Thomas 57 St. Louis, MO Attempted Enticement of a Minor
Nicholas Wright 35 O’Fallon, MO Attempted Enticement of a Minor; Interstate
Travel to Engage in Illicit Sexual Conduct;
Attempted Sex Trafficking of a Child
Vallie F. Zeller 43 St. Louis, MO Attempted Enticement of a Minor; Interstate
Travel to Engage in Illicit Sexual Conduct;
Attempted Production of Child Pornography

        Between June 29-July 1, 2020, all 14 defendants will have an initial appearance in front of United
States Magistrate Judges Mark Beatty or Gilbert Sison at the federal courthouse in East St. Louis.
Each of the offenses is alleged to have occurred in Madison County, Illinois. If convicted, the
defendants each face a minimum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and could receive as much as life
behind bars. The offenses also carry a possible lifetime term of supervised release and fines of up
to $250,000.

        Pending  trial,  all 14  defendants  will  be  held  without  bond or  released  on  electronic
monitoring and other strict conditions mandated by the Adam Walsh Act.

        A complaint is merely a charge against a defendant. Under the law, a defendant is presumed to be
innocent of the charge until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of a jury.

        These cases fall under the umbrella of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in
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.”

        The investigation was led by the FBI-Springfield Division, with the assistance of the FBI- St.
Louis Division, U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations, the Belleville Police Department,
the Collinsville Police Department, the Edwardsville Police Department, the Franklin County
Sheriff’s Office, the Illinois State Police, the Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville Police
Department, the St. Louis County Police Department, the Swansea Police Department, and the United
States Secret Service. Additional assistance was provided by the United States Marshals Service,
the Alton Jail, the Monroe County Jail, and the St. Clair County Jail. The 14 defendants’ cases
will be prosecuted by Assistant Unite States Attorneys Chris Hoell,  Ali Burns,   Karelia
Rajagopal, and Laura Reppert.

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