STATESVILLE — The office of U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray announced on Aug. 26 that there are potentially additional victims in a child pornography case involving an athletic-training intern at Watauga High School through Appalachian State University.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office stated that a federal grand jury in Charlotte returned a 21-count superseding indictment against Frank Darrell Cromwell, 23, of Boone. The indictment charged him with enticement of a minor, production of child pornography, communicating threats, cyberstalking and related offenses.
Ronnie Martinez, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations in Charlotte, and Boone Police Chief Dana Crawford join Murray in making this announcement, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The U.S. Attorney’s Office stated it was the investigation work of these two departments that led to federal charges against Cromwell.
“This individual allegedly tried to gain access to children by obtaining employment in places where he could embed himself with underage boys, including a high school, a summer camp, a middle school and a behavioral health care facility,” Murray said in a statement. “Protecting our children from predators is one of our highest priorities. I urge parents to have a conversation with their children about the dangers of online communications and social media, where predators can use fake names and profiles to weave a heinous web of lies to lure young and innocent children.”
Cromwell had assisted the athletic teams at WHS through an association with App State during the 2017-18 school year. Cromwell was later employed by Wilkes County Schools as a wrestling coach at West Wilkes Middle School for the 2018-19 wrestling season and was employed with Daymark Recovery Services, a private agency that provides specialized services to Wilkes County Schools.
According to allegations contained in the charging documents — including a previously filed criminal complaint — as early as March 2018, Cromwell used a cell phone app and other means to contact and entice minor male victims to produce and send sexually explicit images and videos of themselves to Cromwell. Court documents further allege that Cromwell misled the minors to believe that he was a female by using female names and images to entice the minors to produce and send him child pornography, and to engage in sexual activity.
As the superseding indictment alleges, Cromwell used the following names online and on social media to contact the young victims: “Savannah,” “princesssav222,” “lickmeup5020,” “Sav,” “frankie5020,” “Lauren,” “Sydney,” “Sarah,” “Lily,” “Kaylee” and “Stephanie.”
To date, law enforcement have identified 10 victims. Cromwell met some of the victims through his Appalachian State University internship as an athletic trainer at Watauga High School. People who believe that they may have been a victim, know someone who may have been a victim or know information related to the conduct referenced in this case are asked to contact the Boone Police Department at (828) 268-6938.
The specific charges against Cromwell are: nine counts of production of child pornography (which carry a minimum of 15 years and a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison per count); four counts of distribution and receipt/attempted receipt of child pornography (which carry a minimum of five years and a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison per count); three counts of enticement of a minor (which carry a minimum penalty of 10 years and maximum penalty of life in prison per count); two counts of cyberstalking (which carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison per count); interstate communication of threats (which carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison); advertising of child pornography (which carries a minimum penalty of 15 years and a maximum of 30 years in prison); and one count of possession of child pornography (which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison).
Each of these counts also carries a maximum fine of $250,000 per count.
“The charges contained in the indictment are allegations,” stated the U.S. Attorney’s Office. “The defendant is innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Wasserman, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte, is in charge of the prosecution. Cromwell’s next court date is Sept. 10 in Charlotte.