Kentwood man faces child porn, sex trafficking charges

Kent County

A March 18, 2021, booking photo of Timothy Sweeney from the Kent County jail.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Federal charges have been filed against a man who authorities say paid teenage girls to send him inappropriate photos and tried to pay at least one teen to have sex.

Timothy Edward Sweeney, 30, of Kentwood, faces counts of coercion and enticement of a minor, production of child pornography and sex trafficking of a minor, documents filed in federal court in March show.

In a criminal complaint written by an FBI agent, authorities say Sweeney met one of his victims, who was at the time around the age of 16, via Instagram in April 2020. Authorities say he paid her several hundreds dollars to take around 100 inappropriate photos of herself. On at least one occasion, another teen was also in the photos, the FBI alleges.

The FBI agent wrote that the teen told investigators that Sweeney repeatedly solicited her to engage in sex acts with him, but that she always refused.

In January of this year, Sweeney took the the teen, another girl and a 15-year-old boy to his house, the teen told the FBI. They tried to do the same the next night, but a St. Joseph County sheriff’s deputy broke things up after someone reported a suspicious vehicle. Sweeney was allowed to go, but the teens were taken into custody and returned to their parents.

Records show Sweeney was booked into jail March 18, a few days after the criminal complaint was filed.

The FBI and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children have been warning parents of the increasing threat of online sexual exploitation.

“In the year 2020 alone, we’ve seen the rate of these types of incidents increase up to 97.5% compared to the year prior,” NCMEC wrote in a blog post earlier this year.

Officials say it’s important for parents to speak with their children about online safety and monitor their screen time.

If you suspect a predator is targeting a child, you’re encouraged to submit a report through NCEMC’s cybertipline or call 1.800.THE.LOST (1.800.843.5678). You can also submit a report to the FBI’s tipline, your local law enforcement, or Michigan’s OK2SAY hotline for students and school employees.

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