Missouri high school teacher sentenced to 30 years in prison for sextortion

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A Missouri high school teacher was sentenced to 30 years in prison for coercing children online into sending him sexually explicit images and videos in a sextortion scheme involving 11 identified victims and dozens of others who could not be identified.

US District Judge M. Douglas Harpool on Tuesday handed down the 30-year sentence without parole to 31-year-old Brandon McCullough in a federal court. The business teacher, who was employed at Cassville High School at the time of the crime — about 20 miles north of the Arkansas state line — was also ordered to pay $204,199 in restitution to one of his underage victims and will be under supervision. be released for the rest of his life after serving his prison sentence.

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McCullough pleaded guilty on August 4, 2021 to three charges of sexual exploitation of a minor and two charges of coercing and seducing a minor into illegal sexual activity.

Federal prosecutors were initially tipped off about McCullough’s treasonous online activities in February 2020 after a call from New Jersey police contacted by the mother of a 14-year-old victim.

The mother, whose daughter would later come to be known as Jane Doe 1 in court records, told local authorities that her daughter was using Kik — an instant messaging app that allows users to communicate without revealing their real names or phone numbers — and became involved in a blackmail scheme where a user who later identified himself as McCullough asked her to send sexually explicit images to him.

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Brandon McCullough, 31, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for blackmailing dozens of children over the internet

(Greene County Jail)

With Jane Doe 1, McCullough posed as a 15-year-old boy under the username “brianmagee8809”. The pair began talking in May 2019, and during their conversations, McCullough forced the child to send sexually explicit images and videos and threatened to pass that content on to her friends and family unless she gave more.

Prosecutors also found that McCullough had used another fake character in the Kik app to talk to Jane Doe 1, this time posing as a 17-year-old boy. In those conversations, Jane Doe confided in McCullough’s second fake persona about how she was being blackmailed by another user, and in response told the 14-year-old it would be best to continue to meet his demands.

“This defendant, a high school teacher, impersonated a teenager online to prey on young victims across the country,” US Attorney Teresa Moore of the Western District of Missouri said in a Department of Justice press release. “He enticed countless child victims to send him explicit images of himself, then threatened to share those images with their family and friends via social media unless they continued to send him even more explicit images and videos. Such criminal behavior justifies the severe punishment he received today.”

After Jane Doe 1’s mother of New Jersey contacted local authorities and they contacted federal investigators in Missouri, a search warrant was issued at the high school teacher’s home on May 7, 2020.

While searching McCullough’s southern Missouri home, they discovered an external hard drive hidden under a basket tucked under a bathroom sink in the basement.

The hard drive contained dozens of folders of McCullough’s time spent on Kik, including conversations with minors and thousands of images and videos of underage children, all produced by the victims themselves.

Prosecutors noted that while they could identify only 11 of the underage victims in total, they were able to confirm that some of the victims were younger than Jane Doe 1.

Jane Doe 2, who according to the plea deal was a 12-year-old Texas victim who was interviewed by authorities shortly after the search warrant was executed, confirmed that she had also been blackmailed by McCullough, but their conversations had started when she was in fact 11 years old.

A forensic examination of McCullough’s computer revealed that he performed a similar pattern with each of his victims, promising that he would delete all previous images and videos and extort the victims into producing more sexually explicit content for him.

Prosecutors noted that this activity began as early as November 1, 2018, but likely occurred before that time.

“McCullough admitted to contacting minors through Kik to request sexually explicit images,” court documents read. “McCullough stated that he started using Kik for sexual chats in 2014, and the chats eventually developed into sexual chats with minors.”

Homeland Security, which assisted in conducting the investigation into McCullough’s activities, warned in a statement that the public should continue to monitor — and report — suspicious online behavior, “whether or not the person is in a position of public trust.” is located. like McCullough”.

“Today’s sentencing reflects how despicable and damaging McCullough’s crimes against children are and highlights HSI’s commitment to holding perpetrators accountable,” said Katherine Greer, HSI’s special agent in the Kansas City area of ​​operations.