A 56-year-old northeastern Ohio man has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for engaging in sexually oriented Internet contact with a Union County girl.
Lauren Kerr Thomas, of Warren in Trumbull County, had pretended to be a preteen when he befriended the 12-year-old victim online and coached her to send graphic videos and pictures. The girl followed his instructions.
The girl’s parents became suspicious when they learned of high data use on their account.
The sentence was handed down yesterday by Union County Judge Don W. Fraser, in part because Thomas had been designated a sexual predator when the crimes were committed, said county Prosecutor David Phillips.
Thomas, a registered sex offender, has a lengthy criminal record dating to the 1980s. He was on parole from cases in Greene and Montgomery counties in southwestern Ohio when the Union County offenses came to light.
A grand jury indicted Thomas in September on 66 felony counts of pandering sexually oriented material involving a minor and illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material or performance. Thomas pleaded guilty to five of the counts and will serve each of the eight-year sentences concurrently.
Phillips and sexual-abuse experts have cautioned parents to be vigilant and require passwords on the phones of their children to safeguard them from applications that could allow file-sharing that could become predatory.
Calls to Thomas’ attorney, Cliff Valentine, were not returned.
By Dean Narciso - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
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