Illinois man sentenced for soliciting sex from Eldon teen

An Illinois man will be spending the next five years in a federal prison, with no chance for parole, after trying to get an Eldon girl to engage in sexual activity.

U.S. Attorney Beth Phillips said Friday that U.S. District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey ordered the sentence for Travis Lee Gerdt, 29, Godfrey, Ill. — just north of St. Louis.

Laughrey also ordered Gerdt to forfeit a 35 mm camera, a computer, monitor, and scanner and related equipment to the government because all were used to commit the crime.

The sentencing came more than a year after Gerdt pleaded guilty — on Nov. 2, 2009 — to attempting to entice a 13-year-old minor to engage in illicit sexual conduct.

Gerdt admitted he solicited the minor for sex both over the Internet and through the mail.

He engaged in sexually explicit online chats with the minor, asked her to expose herself and mailed a package containing lingerie and sex toys to her home in Eldon.

Phillips said in a news release the case was part of “Project Safe Childhood,” described as “a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse.”

The federal Justice Department launched the initiative in May 2006 to use “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.”

More information about Project Safe Childhood is available online at www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

Phillips said assistant U.S. attorney Lawrence E. Miller prosecuted the Gerdt case, which was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Missouri State Technical Assistance Team and the state Division of Family Services.

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