CLEVELAND – Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Brennan announced that Robert D. McWilliams, 41, of Strongsville, Ohio, pleaded guilty in federal court today to two counts of sex trafficking of a minor, three counts of sexual exploitation of a child, and one count each of transportation of child pornography, receipt and distribution of visual depiction of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct and possession of child pornography.
According to court documents, beginning in 2017 and continuing to 2019, McWilliams solicited sexually explicit images of minors online and engaged in sexual acts with minor victims in exchange for alcohol and other things of value. McWilliams used multiple fake personas, including a teenage girl, and several social media mobile applications to contact his minor victims. McWilliams knew some of the victims through his time in the seminary with the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland at a parish where the children and their families were affiliated.
Posing as a female, McWilliams enticed three minor victims to send sexually explicit photographs and videos, sometimes threatening to expose embarrassing information McWilliams already knew about the victims if they did not send such images. When some victims refused to send additional images, McWilliams followed through on his threats and sent sexually explicit photographs to the victims’ mothers.
In addition, McWilliams used the social networking website Grindr.com to make contact with a minor victim for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex. McWilliams then enticed this minor victim to identify another minor victim with whom McWilliams could engage in commercial sex acts. McWilliams met the victims on multiple occasions for the purpose of engaging in sex acts in exchange for money and alcohol.
McWilliams was also in possession of an HP laptop computer and an external hard drive that contained hundreds of images and videos of child pornography. Further investigation revealed McWilliams had a Dropbox cloud storage account where he stored approximately 150 image and video files of child pornography. McWilliams downloaded these image files from the internet and stored them in various folders on his computer devices.
McWilliams is scheduled to be sentenced on November 9, 2021 and faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
This case was investigated by the Geauga County Prosecutor’s Office with assistance from the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations and Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children (“ICAC”) Task Force. James Flaiz, the Geauga County Prosecutor, is an assigned Special Assistant U.S. Attorney on this matter. The case is being prosecuted by Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Brennan and Assistant U.S. Attorney Carol M. Skutnik.
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