CHARLOTTE — Frank Darrell Cromwell was sentenced to 25 years in prison for producing child pornography, William T. Stetzer, acting U.S. attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, announced on Oct. 7.
U.S. District Judge Kenneth Bell also ordered Cromwell, 25, of Boone, to pay special assessments in the amount of $55,100, to serve a lifetime of supervised release, and to register as a sex offender after he is released from prison.
Ronnie Martinez, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations in North Carolina and South Carolina, and Chief Andy LeBeau of the Boone Police Department, joined Stetzer in making the Oct. 7 announcement.
According to court records and the Oct. 7 hearing, between December 2018 and February 2019, Cromwell used Snapchat to convince multiple minor victims that Cromwell was a female, and to communicate with the minors. During the relevant time period, Cromwell induced and sometimes coerced the minor victims to engage in sexually explicit conduct and to send explicit images and videos to Cromwell, according to a press release from Stetzer.
“Technology misused by predators like Cromwell can impact the safety and well-being of children everywhere,” Stetzer said. “It is important — now more than ever — to have conversations with children about the dangers that lurk on the internet, and remind them that things, and people, online are not always what they seem. I want to thank our law enforcement partners for their investigation of this case, and all they do to help us protect children.”
In making the announcement, Stetzer commended HSI and the Boone Police Department for their investigation of the case and thanked the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation for their assistance.
“Cases like this should put predators on notice that they cannot use the internet to hide from justice, because we will use all of our resources to find you and hold you accountable,” said Martinez. “HSI along with its partners will continue to combat this heinous crime, but we need everyone to be vigilant and monitor what our children do online as well as who they interact with.”
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Cortney Randall and Stephanie Spaugh prosecuted the case.
The 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 U.S. Attorney’s Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.