COLUMBUS, Ga. – A Fortson, Georgia man was sentenced to serve 151 months in federal prison for coercion and enticement of a minor as a result of an international child exploitation investigation.
Brandon Bywater, 27, of Fortson, Georgia, was sentenced to serve 151 months in federal prison to be followed by ten years of supervised release by U.S. District Judge Clay D. Land after previously pleading guilty to coercion and enticement of a minor. In addition, Bywater will be required to register as a sex offender under the Sex Offender Registration Act. There is no parole in the federal system.
“Kids need to know that hidden predators lurk on social media. In this case, the child victim did not know she was interacting with an adult male who collected child pornography of prepubescent children,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary. “Our office will not hesitate to pursue federal charges against child predators. The success of this case demonstrates the excellent interagency work between those investigators here at home and abroad who are committed to protecting children.”
“It’s unfortunate that there are predators like Bywater lurking in the shadows online waiting for their next victim. We all have to make sure we are monitoring our children’s online activities to protect them from danger,” said Special Agent in Charge Katrina W. Berger, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in Georgia and Alabama. “Fortunately, he will not be able to post or share these disturbing images and is being held accountable for his crimes against innocent children.”
According to court documents, on June 26, 2018, a Kik social media app user “drawingkid500” uploaded child pornography. This was detected by Kik and forwarded to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Centre for Missing and Exploited Children. The case was referred to Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) after the RCMP geo-located the IP address of the Kik user to the United States. HSI’s investigation led to a search warrant of Bywater’s residence. Bywater admitted to being Kik user “drawingkid500” and that he sent, received and downloaded images of child pornography, including images of toddlers and infants. Agents discovered 27 images of child exploitation on Bywater’s phone, with 14 involving child pornography of prepubescent children. During a forensic examination of a device seized from the defendant, it was discovered that Bywater had texted with a 13-year-old 7th grader more than 400 times. In these texts, Bywater initially pretended to be a high school sophomore named “Jack” and enticed the victim to send nude photos of herself. In addition to receiving nude photos of the victim, Bywater sent nude photos of himself to the girl.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse, launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the DOJ’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children, as well as identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Crawford Seals prosecuted the case for the Government.