LOS ANGELES–A San Pedro man who responded to an internet advertisement to have sex with a young girl and sent a photograph of his genitals has pleaded guilty to a federal obscenity charge, following a multiagency probe that included U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Joshua Paul Crouch, 28, pleaded guilty Aug. 10 to attempting to transfer obscene material to a minor. As a result of the guilty plea before U.S. District Judge John Walter, Crouch faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison when he is sentenced Oct. 24.
According to court documents, HSI special agents, in collaboration with other law enforcement agencies, posted an advertisement for commercial sex acts on backpage.com. Crouch responded to the ad March 30 and agreed to pay $60 to receive oral sex from what he thought was a 13-year-old girl, but who, in fact, was an undercover law enforcement officer.
During the text conversation with the undercover agent and another “girl” that Crouch thought was 15, he sent a photograph of his genitals to the older “girl” to entice the younger “girl” to engage in prohibited sexual conduct, according to the plea agreement filed in this case.
Crouch followed the directions provided by the undercover agent and was arrested when he arrived at hotel room in San Pedro to have oral sex with the 13-year-old girl in exchange for $60.
“Men who solicit sex from minors are an integral part of the underground sex trade that victimizes young people,” said United States Attorney Eileen Decker. “This undercover investigation and federal prosecution demonstrates that we are focusing on identifying customers and commercial sex traffickers who prey upon women and children.”
“As this case makes clear, sexual predators who believe they can stalk minors online anonymously and with impunity are very much mistaken,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. “The coercion of minors into prostitution is unconscionable under any circumstances and HSI is using every tool and resource at its disposal to hold the perpetrators in these cases accountable for their crimes.”
As a result of his conviction in this case, Crouch will be required to register as a sex offender.