Missouri man charged with attempting to sexually entice a child

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A southwestern Missouri man was charged in federal court Thursday for attempting to entice a minor for sexual activity.

This indictment resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force, and the Jasper County (Missouri) Sheriff's Department.

Erik Leroy Clark, 35, of Joplin, Missouri, was charged via criminal complaint with one count of attempting to entice a minor for illicit sexual activity.

According to an affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, a detective assumed an undercover identity and posted an ad on a social networking website July 14 offering an incestuous relationship between an adult and child.

Clark allegedly responded to the ad July 20. According to the affidavit, the undercover detective told Clark that the ad was for someone to teach her 10-year-old daughter about sex. Very quickly, the affidavit says, Clark started suggesting a meeting and said he was willing to help, but that the 10-year old girl's mother needed to be present.

In subsequent emails, according to the affidavit, Clark offered to engage in various sexual activities with the 10-year-old girl and suggested meetings on several occasions. The undercover detective repeatedly declined each of Clark's meeting requests, the affidavit says. The detective finally agreed to meet Clark at a Joplin park.

On Aug. 6, law enforcement officers identified Clark as he drove through the park, using a photo he had emailed to the undercover detective. Officers stopped Clark and arrested him. Upon initial contact, Clark immediately stated, "I knew it, I knew it, I knew I was going to get in trouble." Officers searched his car and found a "Hello Kitty" ball, Durex tropical-flavored condoms and a bottle of Equate warming liquid personal lubricant.

Clark remains in federal custody pending a detention hearing Aug. 12.

The charge contained in this complaint is simply an accusation, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charge must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.

This investigation was conducted under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 10,000 individuals for crimes against children, including producing and distributing online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking children. In fiscal year 2013, more than 2,000 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative.

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.

For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI's Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page.

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.

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