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Missouri man sentenced to 19 years for child sexual exploitation following a joint HSI, law enforcement partner investigation

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A Missouri man who was the subject of an undercover investigation in the United Kingdom has been sentenced in federal court on child sexual exploitation charges, following a joint Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and law enforcement partner investigation.

Kody Ryan Kelso, 31, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Stephen R. Bough to 19 years and seven months in federal prison without parole. The court also sentenced Kelso to spend 15 years on supervised release following incarceration.

On July 6, Kelso pleaded guilty to one count of the sexual exploitation of a child to produce child pornography and one count of using the internet and a cell phone to coerce and entice a child under the age of 14 to engage in illicit sexual activity.

Both the offenses to which Kelso pleaded guilty are related to an undercover law enforcement operation in the United Kingdom. Kelso used MyLOL, a teen dating site with chat features, to contact a person he believed to be a 13-year-old girl, but who in reality was an undercover law enforcement officer. Kelso asked the minor to have sexual intercourse with him and repeatedly requested sexually explicit images during online chats from Jan. 7 to Feb. 2, 2021. Kelso also provided his email address and asked the minor to use Google Hangouts to send sexually explicit photos outside the MyLOL platform.

In addition to the information from Europol, investigators received two cybertips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children regarding Kelso’s online activity and posting a child pornography video online.

On June 16, 2021, Springfield police arrested Kelso after executing a search warrant at his apartment and seizing 19 electronic devices. Investigators found 26 images and 39 video files of child pornography on Kelso’s computers. According to court documents, Kelso had multiple conversations with other users who had clearly identified themselves as minors; he sought to have them produce sexually explicit images and entice them into engaging in sexual conduct. The records from MyLOL reveal that Kelso had contacted 560 additional MyLOL users, all of whom were listed as being between the ages of 13 and 17 years old. He started each conversation by asking if the child had an “age limit” and would introduce sexual topics.

Kelso’s behavior was not limited to MyLOL. On his devices, law enforcement discovered approximately 7,900 different chat threads with different users, over multiple social media applications, including Discord, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, Instagram, Kik, Skype and Text Now. Kelso sometimes sent child pornography and pornographic images of himself to these children and requested nude images.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie L. Wan. It was investigated by HSI, the Springfield, Missouri Police Department, and the FBI.

Project Safe Childhood

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. For more information about internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc and click on the “Resources” tab.

Homeland Security Investigations

HSI is a directorate of ICE and the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 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 6,800 special agents assigned to 225 cities throughout the United States and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’ largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

Learn more about HSI’s mission to combat child exploitation in your community on Twitter @HSIKansasCity.

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