JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA – United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announced today that George Thomas Griffiths, Jr. (41, Ponte Vedra Beach) has been arrested and charged by federal criminal complaint with distributing child pornography. Griffiths faces a mandatory minimum penalty of 5 years, and up to 20 years, in federal prison, and a potential life term of supervised release. Griffiths was arrested on February 10, 2021, and is detained pending a hearing on February 12, 2021 at 11:00 a.m., in Jacksonville.
According to the criminal complaint, an FBI task force officer in Wisconsin began an undercover investigation using a particular social media application (“app”) to identify individuals attempting to sexually exploit children using the internet. From February 3, 2020 through February 20, 2020, an individual user named “ban_me_again” uploaded several videos featuring children being sexually abused to a chat room on the app. Meanwhile, the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office (SJSO) received information from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) that the same app had reported that the user (“ban_me_again”) had uploaded videos containing possible child-exploitative material during this same time period. Further investigation traced the internet protocol addresses used to distribute these videos to Griffiths’s residence in Ponte Vedra Beach, and to his place of employment in Jacksonville, where Griffiths worked as a radiology technician.
On November 19, 2020, SJSO detectives, together with agents from Homeland Security Investigations, executed a search warrant at Griffiths’s residence and seized an Apple iPhone belonging to Griffiths. During an interview with law enforcement, Griffiths stated that he used this particular app to talk to people and that it was “possible” that he had exchanged pictures and videos on the app. An examination of Griffiths’s iPhone revealed that it contained at least 2,000 images, and at least 10 videos, depicting child sexual abuse. Many of these images and videos depicted infants, toddlers, and prepubescent children engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
A criminal complaint is only an allegation and every defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
This case was investigated by the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Homeland Security Investigations. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney D. Rodney Brown.
This is another case brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.