WARNING: This story includes graphic content and is not suitable for all readers. Discretion is advised.
NORFOLK — A Hampton Roads man was sentenced to 40 years in prison for producing and possessing images of child sexual abuse.
On Wednesday, July 14, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Raj Parekh of the Department of Justice announced that James William Thomas, III, 36 of Southampton County was sentenced following his February 13, 2020 conviction of seven counts of production of child pornography and three counts of possession of child pornography.
In 2014, Thomas was arrested after burglarizing a coin shop in Franklin. When county investigators executed a search warrant on Thomas’ home, they seized evidence linked to twenty-five unsolved burglaries in Virginia and North Carolina. During this seizure, they obtained computers and other digital storage devices.
Upon further examination, the storage devices collected were revealed to contain child pornography. Investigators went on to discover detailed folders on the devices which included the names of multiple child victims as well as saved chat sessions.
Thomas posed as a 17-year-old who befriended his victims over social media. The victims were determined to be female, generally between the ages of 12 to 16 years old.
He went on to groom the victims and convinced them to produce images of themselves and, in some cases, perform acts over webcam. He then recorded the videos and saved them to the aforementioned storage devices.
The evidence at trial showed that Thomas had dozens of victims with whom he would keep track of with a “cheat sheet.” Information on this sheet included the victims’ names, ages, telephone numbers, and other notes on how easy it was for him to victimize them. Evidence also showed that he engaged physical acts with a 14-year-old girl on three separate occasions. Each time, Thomas produced and saved more illegal material.
The Department of Justice states that this case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood; a nationwide initiative launched in 2006 by the department in order to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse. To learn more about Project Safe Childhood, visit the website here: Project Safe Childhood
Crimes such as these should be immediately reported to a local police jurisdiction. Additionally, reports can be made to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) either online: www.cybertipline.com or via telephone at 1-800-843-5678.