An Evans man has been sentenced to more than 10 years in federal prison and 20 years of supervised release for the attempted online enticement of a minor.
Ernest Harvey Shepherd, 58, was sentenced Friday to 10 years, 10 months in prison by U.S. District Court Judge Randal Hall, the U.S. attorney’s office said in a statement Monday. He is also required to register as a sex offender.
“This defendant admitted to engaging in inappropriate communications with a female child whom he believed to be 14 years old for the purpose of having illicit sexual conduct,” U.S. Attorney Edward J. Tarver said.
Investigators identified 25 other girls between ages 12 and 17 whom Shepherd had inappropriate communication with online.
Parents of a 16-year-old notified the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office in May after they saw “questionable online communications” on Facebook between their daughter and Shepherd, who had met the teen while working as an official at swim meets.
Investigators for the FBI’s Cyber Crimes Child Exploitation Task Force began an undercover operation by posing online as a 14-year-old girl with a history of sexual interactions with older men, according to a criminal complaint filed in May.
During the communications, Shepherd admitted to having kissed a 13-to 14-year-old several years ago. In one conversation, he suggested “skinny-dipping and lunch” and offered to bring wine coolers. On
May 24, he messaged his intentions to take the girl to eat Mexican food and go to an Econo Lodge.
Shepherd was arrested May 27 after he arrived at a prearranged location to engage in sexual acts with the person he believed to be a 14-year-old girl, who was actually a law enforcement officer.
He pleaded guilty in August.
The arrest was the first under the newly created Cyber Crimes Child Exploitation Task Force, which consists of the sheriff’s offices in Richmond and Columbia counties, FBI and Georgia Bureau of Investigation and is designed to fight crimes against children and other cybercrimes.