Cassville High School teacher sentenced to 30 years for sextortion scheme | USAO-WDMO
SPRINGFIELD, Missouri – A Southern Missouri high school teacher was convicted today in federal court of a sextortion scheme in which 11 identified child victims and dozens of other unidentified child victims were coerced into sending him messages. pornographic images and videos.
“This defendant, a high school teacher, pretended to be a teenager online in order to prey on young victims across the country,” said U.S. Attorney Teresa Moore. “He victimized 11 children who have been identified, and many more who have yet to be identified, in a horrific scheme of exploitation. He tricked countless child victims into sending him explicit images of themselves, then threatened to share those images with their families and friends on social media unless they continued to send him images and messages. even more explicit videos. Such appalling criminal behavior justifies the severe sentence he received today.
Brandon Lane McCullough, 31, of Branson, Mo., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Douglas Harpool to 30 years in federal prison without parole. The court also ordered McCullough to spend the rest of his life on probation after his incarceration and to pay $204,199 in restitution to one of his victims.
“Today’s sentencing reflects how despicable and damaging McCullough’s crimes against children are and underscores HSI’s dedication to holding perpetrators accountable,” said Katherine Greer, HSI Special Agent in Charge of the Area. of Kansas City operations. “Alongside our law enforcement partners, we are committed to eradicating sextortion from our communities, but we need the public’s help. HSI asks parents, guardians, teachers, caregivers – anyone who interacts with a child – to be on the lookout and report suspicious online behavior to the appropriate authorities, whether or not the individual is in a position of trust. public, like McCullough.”
McCullough was a business teacher at Cassville High School in the R-4 Cassville School District at the time of the offense.
On August 4, 2021, McCullough pleaded guilty to three counts of sexually exploiting a minor and two counts of coercing and inducing a minor to engage in illicit sexual activity.
The federal investigation began on February 14, 2020, when a New Jersey police detective contacted federal agents in Missouri. The mother of a 14-year-old victim had reported to the local police department that her daughter was using the Kik app to have sexually explicit conversations and send sexually explicit images to McCullough.
McCullough introduced himself as a 15-year-old boy when he started chatting via Kik with Jane Doe 1 in May 2019. McCullough threatened to send the sexually explicit images and videos to family and friends of Jane Doe 1 unless she sends him additional images and videos. Jane Doe also engaged in a Kik conversation with another user, who was actually McCullough introducing himself as a 17-year-old boy. When Jane Doe told this fake character she was being blackmailed, he told her to keep going with his demands.
On May 7, 2020, law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at McCullough’s residence. They seized an external hard drive hidden under a basket under a bathroom sink in the basement. The hard drive contained dozens of Kik folders, which contained cats as well as thousands of child pornography images and videos self-produced by the child victims, some of whom were younger than Jane Doe 1.
Based on a forensic examination of the computer hard drive recovered from McCullough’s residence, investigators were able to identify 10 other child victims of McCullough’s sextortion scheme. Dozens of other child victims could not be identified. McCullough followed a similar pattern with each victim, extorting victims to produce sexually explicit images and videos with the promise that he would delete all images once news was sent. When the victims sent the videos and/or images, McCullough would start the cycle over again. This activity started at least as of November 1, 2018.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ami Harshad Miller. He was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force, and the Florham Park Borough, New Jersey, Police Department.
Safe Childhood Project
This case was 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 Attorney’s Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood brings together federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit child sexual abuse, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about the Safe Childhood Project, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc. For more information on Internet Safety Education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc and click on the “resources” tab.