Jacksonville, Florida – Earl Frederic Owens (32, Jacksonville) has pleaded guilty to distributing child sex abuse images over the internet. He faces a mandatory minimum penalty of 5 years, and up to 20 years, in federal prison, and a potential life term of supervised release. Additionally, Owens will be required to register as a sex offender and to forfeit several computer devices seized from his residence. Owens has been in custody since his arrest on November 19, 2019.
According to court documents, the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Cyber Crimes Center received a report from Kik, a social messaging application (“app”), that several different user accounts had uploaded and distributed images depicting the sexual exploitation of children to an online chat platform using the Kik app. Further investigation revealed that these materials were distributed from an apartment in Jacksonville where Owens lived.
On November 19, 2019, HSI agents executed a search warrant at Owens’s apartment. During an interview, Owens admitted that he uses the Kik app to chat with strangers about his “urges,” he has an interest in “pedophilia,” and that he traded child sex abuse materials with others online through group chats and private messages using the Kik app. A forensic examination of Owens’s laptop computer revealed that he had collected at least 2,149 images depicting young children being sexually abused.
This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations in Jacksonville, and the HSI Child Exploitation Investigations Unit – Cyber Crime Center in Fairfax, Virginia. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney D. Rodney Brown.
This is another case 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.justice.gov/psc.