FLORENCE, SOUTH CAROLINA – Acting United States Attorney M. Rhett DeHart announced today that Nathan Branham, 40, of Cheraw, was sentenced to nearly seven years in federal prison after pleading guilty to transferring obscene material to a minor and having his federal supervised release revoked.
Evidence presented to the Court showed that Branham, who was on supervised release for a previous federal conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm, coerced a 13-year-old minor in Kentucky to speak with him via video chat and threatened to come to her home if she did not expose herself to him. After she complied, Branham exposed himself to the minor.
“This office will always protect children and will act swiftly to prosecute those who seek to do them harm,” said Acting U.S. Attorney DeHart. “I commend the excellent work by the Secret Service and our law enforcement partners in Kentucky and South Carolina. They moved quickly to identify and arrest a repeat offender who was operating across state lines. Our communities are safer because of their work.”
According to evidence presented to the Court, Branham contacted the minor through the online social media application Uplive, a live-streaming platform that allows viewers to broadcast and view real-time videos via their smartphones. Using the screen name Mystic, Branham learned the minor’s age, told the minor he was sixteen years old, and convinced the minor to contact him using the Google Duo video chat application.
As presented to the Court, the minor instantly noticed Branham was an adult male. Although Branham stated that he had a genetic condition that made him look older, the minor ended the call. At that point Branham claimed he could find the minor’s address and threatened the minor into engaging in another call with him. On that call, Branham told the minor to expose herself or he was going to “find out your address and have a little talk to you.” After the minor complied, Branham also exposed himself. The minor reported the matter to her parents. The parents contacted Branham, at which point Branham falsely claimed to be a police officer whose children had initiated the call.
The parents reported the matter to police. The Kentucky Attorney General’s Office Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force immediately initiated a case in conjunction with the United States Secret Service. The ICAC task force program is a national network of 61 coordinated task forces representing over 4,500 federal, state, and local law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies. The investigation in Kentucky quickly revealed that Branham lived in South Carolina, and within a week he was arrested as part of a joint operation between the Secret Service and the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office ICAC task force.
Branham – who has convictions for indecent exposure and assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature – admitted to engaging in similar interactions with minors on more than thirty occasions and admitted to having had sexual intercourse with a minor when he was 29 years old. Branham had also been released from federal prison only three months earlier after serving more than eight years for being a felon in possession of a firearm. As a result of this conduct, his supervised release was also revoked.
Senior United States District Judge Terry L. Wooten sentenced Branham to 21 months in federal prison for violating his federal supervised release. United States District Court Judge Sherri A. Lydon sentenced Branham to 60 months in federal prison for transferring obscene material to a minor. Judge Lydon ordered that the 60-month sentence run consecutively with the sentence imposed by Judge Wooten, to be followed by a three-year term of court-ordered supervision. There is no parole in the federal system. After his release, Branham will be required to register as a sex offender.
This case was investigated by the United States Secret Service, the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office ICAC task force, and the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office ICAC task force. 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. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.
Assistant United States Attorney Derek A. Shoemake of the Florence office prosecuted the case.