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Pine City Man Sentenced to 29 Years in Prison for Multi-Victim Child Exploitation and Child Pornography Scheme

MINNEAPOLIS – A Pine City man has been sentenced to 350 months in prison followed by 12 years of supervised release for producing, receiving, and distributing images of child pornography, and coercing and enticing minors to engage in illegal sexual activity, announced U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger.

"For years, Caleb McLaughlin used social media to groom, sexually exploit, and abuse hundreds of minor victims. He preyed upon the most vulnerable, with some victims as young as 11 or 12 years old," said U.S. Attorney Luger. "Protecting Minnesota children from the trauma of sexual exploitation is a critical part of our mission, and I thank all of our partners in law enforcement for their diligence on this investigation."

"When our children are victimized, the FBI and our law enforcement partners will do everything in our power to hold the perpetrators accountable," said Special Agent in Charge Alvin M. Winston Sr. of FBI Minneapolis. "Today's sentence demonstrates our commitment to seek justice for our most innocent victims."

According to his plea agreement and court documents, beginning in or about January 2019, Caleb Vincent McLaughlin, 26, used multiple social media accounts to solicit and direct over 200 minor victims to produce and send sexually explicit images, of whom 26 minors have been identified between the ages of 11 and 16 years old in Minnesota and Wisconsin. McLaughlin used a variety of aliases and Snapchat IDs including "Jake Benson," "Lift11" or "Tech4cm," in his scheme, and sometimes purported to be 17 years old to prey on minor girls he met online in order to entice and coerce them to create sexually explicit images and videos. McLaughlin targeted minor victims not only to obtain child pornography, but also to coerce minor victims to meet him in person so he could commit hands-on sexual abuse. McLaughlin offered minors drugs, alcohol, vape pens, cash, and gift cards in exchange for sex acts. Then McLaughlin documented that abuse by producing child pornography videos. McLaughlin also distributed numerous videos and images of child pornography, some of which was self-produced and depicted him sexually assaulting minor victims.

On October 11, 2023, McLaughlin pleaded guilty to two counts of production of child pornography, one count of receipt of child pornography, one count of distribution of child pornography, and one count of coercion and enticement of a minor. He was sentenced today by Chief Judge Patrick J. Schlitz, who remarked that the sentence was one of the longest he had ever imposed and called McLaughlin's behavior, "shocking, even to someone like me, a federal judge who has been sentencing [child sex offenders] for over two decades."

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 U.S. Attorney's Offices and the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), 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, please visit http://www.justice.gov/psc.

This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the FBI, with substantial assistance from the St. Paul Police Department, Pine County Sheriff's Office, and Hennepin County Sheriff's Office.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Hillary A. Taylor and Rachel L. Kraker prosecuted the case.

 

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