A Utah man was arrested in Washington County on Tuesday after police said he solicited nude photos and videos from girls on social media, some of whom were as young as 11. (Rafa Jodar, Shutterstock)
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ST. GEORGE — A Utah man was arrested on Tuesday and charged with soliciting explicit photos from girls across the country, some of whom were as young as 11.
Johnathan Paul Sperry, 25, of St. George, was arrested by the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force on Tuesday and jailed in Washington County. He was formally charged in 7th District Court on Wednesday with nine counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, a second-degree felony; three counts of enticing a minor through the Internet and five counts of trafficking in material harmful to a minor, both third-degree felonies.
The investigation began March 17 when investigators from the Auburn Police Department in Indiana contacted authorities in Utah. Indiana detectives investigating another case said they found evidence on an 11-year-old girl’s phone of sexually explicit Snapchat conversations with someone whose username is “Groovydragon.”
Upon reviewing the messages, police found that “Groovydragon” had requested nude photos and videos of the girl, and had also sent her at least one video in return, according to a police booking affidavit. “Groovydragon” was later determined to be Sperry, according to police.
As investigators dug deeper into Sperry’s Snapchat account by signing search warrants, they uncovered behavior in which Sperry used the Snapchat account “to target juvenile users of social media apps and solicit files of child pornography or child sexual abuse material and/or send nude photos of himself,” the affidavit reads.
Investigators have identified four other conversations with girls in which Sperry identifies as a 20-year-old, while two of the girls claim to be 16, according to the affidavit. Police say the other two girls told Sperry they were 11 years old. Although he informed her of their ages, Sperry engaged in sexually graphic conversations with each girl and requested photos and videos, according to the affidavit.
Police said they believe “further investigation will reveal more victims,” the arrest report said. “Johnathan Sperry has shown a tendency to target minors, particularly minors as young as 11… (and) repeatedly solicited minors to record themselves committing acts classified as child pornography or sexual abuse of children.
“Jonathan contacted several young girls between the ages of 11 and 16 across the country to solicit nude photos,” the affidavit concludes in summary as investigators requested that he be held in jail without the possibility of posting bail in awaiting the filing of formal charges.