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Man gets 40 years for child porn

MARYSVILLE — A convicted sex offender has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for coaxing a 12-year-old girl to send him sexually explicit photos and videos on her cellphone.

THOMAS-sexoffend

THOMAS

Fifty-six-year-old Lauren Kerr Thomas of Warren was sentenced this week in Union County. He pleaded guilty to multiple felonies. Thomas' attorney didn't immediately return a call for comment Saturday.

Prosecutors said Thomas used a smartphone app to chat with the girl, convincing her that he was a 15-year-old disabled girl. He then instructed her to take the photos and videos of herself.

The child's parents called Marysville police after they noticed an unusually high amount of phone data being used and questioned the girl.

Authorities say Thomas has previous convictions for sex crimes against children.

The Union County Prosecutor's Office issued the following media release about the sex offender's sentencing:

An Ohio man has been sentenced to 40-years in prison for creating sexually-oriented materials involving a 12-year old child. Lauren Kerr Thomas, 56, of Warren, Ohio who pleaded guilty to five counts of Pandering Sexually-Oriented Matters Involving a Minor and Illegal Use of a Minor in Nudity Oriented Materials was sentenced today by Judge Don Fraser to the lengthy prison term. The crimes are second degree felonies.

Thomas used a phone app called KIK to chat with a 12-year old girl in Union County. “Thomas convinced the young victim that he was a 15-year old disabled girl. After adopting this persona, he persuaded her to video and photograph herself engaging in various sexual acts and send those images to him,” said Union County Prosecuting Attorney David Phillips, “He is every parent’s nightmare.” According to the prosecutor, Thomas kept the conversation casual for a several weeks moving to sexually explicit conversation and then to videos and photographs. The chat and images became more graphic as time progressed.

The case came to light after the child’s parents noticed an unusually high amount of phone data being used and questioned the girl. She told her parents, who notified Marysville Police. At the time of the police report, the parents were unaware that the person on the other end of the communication was a convicted sex-offender. Police Chief Floyd Golden credits the parent’s diligence. “Young people are vulnerable, and this man knew how to exploit this vulnerability,” said the Chief. “Thomas convinced the girl he was her friend. He deceived her. He adopted multiple identities. Thomas has targeted young children before, and knew what to say and how to say it. But for this young woman’s parent’s monitoring their daughter, this girl would have been victimized further.”

Thomas found the girl’s user name on the Internet. “She had reviewed the app, and was looking for people to chat with, “said Chief Golden. “All Thomas needed was this information to begin talking to her.”

To identify Thomas, Marysville Police detectives subpoenaed phone records, but the phone was pre-paid, and subscriber identification was difficult. “Detectives weren't deterred, and followed a trail eventually leading to Thomas, “said prosecutor Phillips. Once detectives identified Thomas, they worked with computer forensic specialists from the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCI&I) to analyze the phone and computer records. A search warrant was executed on Thomas’s home with the assistance of the Warren Police Department.” Investigators learned there were other victims.

“There were at least four victims whom investigators could identify, and many more who could not be identified,” said Phillips. BCI&I identified victims in Michigan and Tennessee and Ohio. “The BCI analyst determined Thomas had contact with over 350 different profiles. Many of those were probably children, but they could not be identified.” Thomas, however, will face additional charges in Trumbull County for crimes he committed there.

Thomas has prior convictions for sex crimes against children. He was convicted in Montgomery County in 2003 for Unlawful Sexual Conduct with a Child and faced similar charges in Greene County in 2006. Phillips confirmed that Thomas did not meet with the Union County girl.

Phillips said adolescents are susceptible to the abuse because they are sexually curious, rebellious and feel they are invincible. "Teenagers are always looking for someone that they feel understands them," he said. "The predator knows this. The Internet and phone apps provide anonymity for these predators to lure children into a relationship. Once they establish trust, the predator convinces the child to engage in more explicit behavior. Parents need to be aware.”

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