EAST ST. LOUIS – In a U.S. District courtroom Thursday, a federal judge sentenced a 27-year-old Belleville man - Brandon Lepper - to 262 months imprisonment after he admitted to producing and distributing sexually explicit images of minors. Lepper aded guilty to one count of sexual exploitation of a child and one count of distribution of child pornography.

The judge sentenced him to 262 months imprisonment for count one and 240 months for count two to run concurrently. In addition to the prison sentence, Lepper will serve 15 years of supervised release and is ordered to pay $27,500 in restitution.

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“The defendant hid his cell phone and set it up to record in a bathroom he knew a minor would be using to undress in for his own sick pleasure, but then also proceeded to violate and humiliate his victim further by sending their images out into the hands of other pedophiles,” said U.S. Attorney Rachelle Aud Crowe. “Thankfully, Lepper’s prison sentence reflects his vicious and unforgivable actions. I commend the FBI for leading the investigation.”

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“The actions of the defendant are deserving of this significant sentence as it reflects the serious nature of the crime,” said FBI Springfield Special Agent in Charge David Nanz. “Offenders, like Lepper, believe they are invisible to law enforcement from behind their computer screens, but the FBI will use every legal authority to identify, investigate, and hold accountable those intent on harming children.”

According to court documents, FBI agents interviewed Lepper while investigating him for distributing child sexual abuse material (CSAM) on a social media site in April 2021. While searching his cell phone, agents uncovered CSAM in Lepper’s camera roll, an online folder drive, and in chats sent from his device. Upon further review, agents discovered Lepper produced and distributed explicit images of an unsuspecting minor he knew personally while the child was undressing.

In total, Lepper’s collection of CSAM included nearly 3,000 images. FBI – Springfield Field Office led the investigation, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Ali Burns prosecuted the case. 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. Attorneys’ Offices and 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.

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