Cyber crimes such as possession and distribution of child pornography, sexual exploitation of children, and enticement of children have been on the rise for several years. To respond to the increase in such offenses, the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention established the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program, which consists of 61 coordinated task forces across the United States, including the Missouri Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The Missouri Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force is broken up into ten regional task forces.
Cantin Mynarich deals most often with the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force, in Joplin, Missouri. The Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force is responsible for investigating technology related offenses, involving children as victims, for 22 southwest Missouri counties. These counties include Barry, Barton, Benton, Cedar, Christian, Dade, Douglas, Greene, Hickory, Howell, Jasper, Lawrence, McDonald, Newton, Ozark, Polk, St. Clair, Stone, Taney, Vernon, Webster, and Wright counties.
The Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force officers receive cyber tips from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (“NCMEC”) and follow up on those cyber tips with investigative subpoenas. Once they believe they have identified a person who may be committing a cyber crime involving children (such as distributing child pornography), the Task Force officers obtain and execute search warrants to seize cell phones, computers, external hard drives, USBs and other storage devices and then forensic examiners conduct examinations of those cell phones, computers, and storage devices.
These examiners have special forensic tools to search electronics. For example, Cellebrite software allows law enforcement to access data, even deleted data, on cell phones. If the examiners find evidence of a crime against a child, they prepare a file for the federal prosecutor to take the case to the federal grand jury to seek criminal charges.
In 2020, the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force opened 989 cases, a record year. This is approximately 100 additional cases over the 899 cases opened by the Task Force in 2019. Chip Root, a supervisor of the Task Force, explained that children being at home due to COVID played a role in the increase from 2019 to 2020. Brian Martin, another detective with the Task Force, explained to The Monett Times that there has been an increase in “sextortion” cases where adults entice children to send sexually explicit images of themselves. Once the adult has one image, the adult will blackmail the child to send more sexual images.
It is likely that the effects of children staying home during the pandemic have not fully been realized yet, and the number of cases opened in 2021 will probably surpass 2020’s number of cases. If you receive a visit from Chip Root, Brian Martin, or any of the cyber crimes detectives of the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force, it is best to contact Cantin Mynarich’s attorneys immediately. If an attorney can begin working on your case and communicating with law enforcement before you get charged, that could possibly help you later if charges are ever sought in federal court.