A 48-year-old Sierra Vista man was taken into custody Wednesday by federal agents after showing up for what he planned would be a sexual encounter with a 13-year-old girl.
Kelly J. Stanley was booked into the Cochise County jail Wednesday evening by special agents with U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) on suspicion of aggravated luring of a minor for sexual exploitation and sexual conduct with a minor. He remained in jail in lieu of $100,000 bail as of press time.
Stanley reportedly exchanged several messages and transmitted sexually explicit images to someone he thought was a juvenile. He also asked the girl to send Stanley similar types of images before arranging a meeting in Sierra Vista.
However, the “minor” Stanley was communicating with was a specially trained law enforcement officer assigned to the multi-agency Arizona Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) taskforce responsible for identifying online sexual predators. So instead of meeting the young teen, Stanley was met by several law enforcement officers.
The Arizona ICAC taskforce’s mission is to locate, prosecute, and imprison people who intentionally exploit children. Many of the taskforce’s prosecutions have been handled by Cochise County Brian McIntyre, in part because some state laws allow for lengthier prison sentences compared to federal sentencing guidelines.
The offenses Stanley is charged with under Arizona law are also considered dangerous crimes against children due to the age of the person Stanley believed he was communicating with. Such crimes carry stiffer sentences than if the minor had been 15 or older.
Several agencies were involved in aspects of the Stanley investigation and arrest, including the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office, and the Sierra Vista Police Department. There is also reference to the involvement of the U.S. Army’s criminal investigations division but the Army’s interest is not specified.
Stanley’s next court appearance is slated for Sept. 21 at the Sierra Vista Justice Court, but the Cochise County Attorney’s Office is expected to seek a grand jury felony indictment which would move the case to Cochise County Superior Court.
The Arizona ICAC taskforce is a part of a network of 61 taskforces across the U.S. representing more than 3,000 law enforcement agencies and prosecutorial offices.
HSI is the key federal investigatory agency and has its own Child Exploitation Investigations Unit which can initiate cases from a variety of sources including HSI-generated leads, domestic and international referrals, undercover operations, and tips submitted to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
“HSI investigations often involve open internet forums, individuals and groups operating on the Dark Net, and various messaging and gaming applications,” according to CEIU Unit Chief Erin Burke.
In the Fiscal Year ending Sept. 1, 2020, HSI arrested more than 3,000 persons for crimes against children. Such crimes include sexual abuse, production and distribution of online child exploitation material, child sex tourism, and sex trafficking of children. HSI also identified or rescued over 1,000 victims of child exploitation in FY2020.
HSI is a division of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and serves as the main investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homelands Security.