GULFPORT, MISS – Edward Lee Thomas, 48, of Perkinston, Mississippi, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden to serve the statutory maximum of 600 months in federal prison, followed by a lifetime of supervised release, for producing images of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Darren J. LaMarca and Jack Stanton, Acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New Orleans. Assessments were also imposed on Thomas in the amount of $5,000 under the Justice for Victims of Tracking Act of 2015, and $20,000 under the Amy, Vicky, and Andy Child Pornography Victim Assistance Act of 2018.
In March, 2020, HSI Gulfport received 95 images and 2 videos of child sexual abuse from The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). The investigation led agents to a residence in Forrest County, Mississippi, where sexual abuse images of two minors had been taken. Agents executed a federal search warrant at the residence of Edward Lee Thomas in Perkinston. The seizure and forensic examination of electronic devices taken from Thomas’ residence revealed over 4,000 images and 700 videos of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct.
A superseding indictment charging the production and possession of images of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct was returned by a federal grand jury on June 10, 2020. Thomas pled guilty to the production count on October 22, 2020. He faced a penalty of not less than 15 years and not more than 30 years in prison. However, Thomas’s 2004 Mississippi state conviction for sexual battery of a child was determined to be a qualifying prior conviction for an enhanced statutory penalty, and as such he faced a maximum penalty of not less than 25 years nor more than 50 years, and a $250,000 fine.
The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Jones.
This case was 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.usdoj.gov/psc.