ICE HSI investigation leads to 50-year sentence for Arkansas man

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), a federal jury convicted an Arkansas man today for multiple child exploitation offenses.

Matthew Ray Lawson, 34, was sentenced Jan. 19 to 50 years in prison without the possibility of parole for three counts of possession of child pornography, four counts of aggravated sexual abuse in Indian Country, one count of lewd acts with a child in Indian Country, and one count of production of child pornography. The Honorable Judge Timothy L. Brooks presided over the sentencing hearing in the U.S. Western District of Arkansas. In addition to his prison sentence, Lawson was ordered to pay $30,000 collectively in fines and restitution.

According to court documents, in September of 2019, the Springdale Police Department was contacted by employees of a local towing company, who stated that a vehicle belonging to Lawson was impounded and a thumb drive located inside the vehicle appeared to contain child sexual abuse images. A subsequent investigation by both the Springdale Police Department and HSI Fayetteville led to the execution of a search warrant on Lawson’s Springdale residence and the confiscation of multiple electronic devices, including a laptop. An HSI forensic examination of Lawson’s laptop revealed approximately 900 videos and over 240 images of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Included within these images, were multiple videos of Lawson himself, sexually abusing an approximately 6-year-old male.

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HSI Fayetteville special agents were able to identify the minor male, who was determined to reside with his family outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma. A further investigation by HSI Tulsa revealed Lawson had previously resided with the minor victim’s family when he produced the child sexual abuse images, and, during the same timeframe, sexually abused an approximately 3-year-old female.

Lawson was initially charged in federal court in the Western District of Arkansas with two counts of possession of child pornography. He was separately charged in federal court in the Eastern District of Oklahoma with multiple offenses related to the sexual abuse of the two minor victims. In June of 2021, the Oklahoma charges pending against Lawson were transferred to Arkansas and, thereafter, Lawson entered guilty pleas to all charges pending against him in each respective state.

“This sentence accurately reflects the serious nature of this particularly heinous crime,” said David Clay Fowlkes United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas. “It is our sincere hope that this sentence sends an important message to those who would seek to engage in this sort of criminal conduct: our office will continue to aggressively pursue cases against individuals who would seek to exploit and abuse children in the Western District of Arkansas and elsewhere.”

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“The successful prosecution of the defendant in this case is a testament to the cooperation of state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies and prosecutors,” said Christopher J. Wilson, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Oklahoma. “The actions of the defendant were detestable, and I am hopeful the sentence imposed today will send a clear, resounding message that sexually assaulting and exploiting children is intolerable and will result in substantial punishment.”

The Springdale Police Department, HSI Fayetteville, Arkansas, and HSI, Tulsa, Oklahoma, investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Dustin Roberts prosecuted the case for the Western District of Arkansas and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah McAmis prosecuted the case for the Eastern District of Oklahoma.


HSI is a directorate of ICE and the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

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HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.

HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.