A Standish man was sentenced April 29 in U.S. District Court in Portland for attempting to transfer obscene material to a minor.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen sentenced John Wilson, 36, to 40 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. Wilson pleaded guilty on Jan. 30, 2023.

According to court records, in March 2022, the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office received reports that an individual later identified as Wilson had engaged in inappropriate conversations with at least two minor children using the internet and social media. In June 2022, Wilson engaged in sexually explicit online chats with members of a watchdog group posing as underage girls. During one sexually explicit chat, Wilson sent photographs of his penis and livestreamed a video of himself masturbating to someone he believed to be an 11-year-old girl.

Homeland Security Investigations and the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office investigated the case.

Wilson’s actions are an example of online enticement, an act that is increasing, according to U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Maine press release. “The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported an alarming increase in online enticement reports between 2020 and 2022, with reports more than doubling,” the release said.

“Online enticement” involves an individual communicating with someone believed to be a child via the internet with the intent to commit a sexual offense or abduction. This type of victimization takes place across every platform, including social media, messaging apps, gaming platforms, etc.


According to the NCMEC, some of the most common tactics used to entice children include:

• Engaging in sexual conversation/role-playing as a grooming method, rather than a goal.

• Asking the child for sexually explicit images of themselves or mutually sharing images.

• Developing a rapport through compliments, discussing shared interests or “liking” their online post, also known as grooming.

• Sending or offering sexually explicit images of themselves.

• Pretending to be younger.

• Offering an incentive such as a gift card, alcohol, drugs, lodging, transportation or food.

Online behaviors that raise the risk of being a target for online enticement and becoming a victim of sextortion include:

• Lying about being older in order to access certain platforms which would allow communication with older individuals.

• Initiating online communication and/or offering an exchange with offenders, such as requesting financial compensation, alcohol/drugs, gifts, etc. for sexually explicit content of oneself.

• Sending explicit photos or videos (known as “sexts”) of oneself to another user.

Sextortion, according to NCMEC, “is a form of child sexual exploitation where children are threatened or blackmailed, most often with the possibility of sharing with the public a nude or sexual images of them, by a person who demands additional sexual content, sexual activity or money from the child.”

Learn more about online enticement at missingkids.org/theissues/onlineenticement.

If you are in Maine and you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted or abused, get help by calling the free, private 24-hour statewide sexual assault helpline at 1-800-871-7741.

The case against Wilson was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. attorneys’ offices and the department’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, go to justice.gov/usao-me/psc.

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