Laurel Hill man sentenced to 20 years for attempting to entice 14-year-old in sting operation

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A 27-year-old Laurel Hill man was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison after he solicited pornographic photos and discussed engaging in sexual activity with an undercover investigator he believed to be a 14-year-old girl.

Cody Dewayne Jones was sentenced last week after he pleaded guilty Jan. 11 to attempted enticement of a minor, attempted transfer of obscene material to a minor and committing a felony while a registered sex offender.

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The sentence was announced by Jason Coody, United State Attorney for the Northern District of Florida, in a Tuesday press release.

“This sentence acknowledges the deviant acts of a child predator,” Coody said in the release. “Ensuring the safety of our communities is a top priority. With the assistance of our law enforcement partners, we remain vigilant to investigate and prosecute those who seek to harm our most vulnerable.”

In December 2020, an undercover Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office investigator began chatting online to identify individuals interested in exploiting children. Jones sent a private message via social media to the investigator who was posing as a 14-year-old girl.

Over the next few days, Jones solicited pornographic photographs and discussed engaging in sexual activity with “her,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Law enforcement identified Jones as a previously convicted sex offender.

On Dec. 17, 2020, Jones traveled from Laurel Hill to a predetermined location with the intent of engaging in sexual activity with the undercover investigator who he believed to be the 14-year-old girl and was arrested by law enforcement.

“Protecting innocent children is one of the most important missions we have,” Homeland Security Investigations Jacksonville Assistant Special Agent in Charge K. Jim Phillips said. “Our HSI special agents moved quickly to identify and take a child predator off the streets. HSI will always protect our children and will act swiftly to prosecute those who seek to do them harm.”

Jones’ federal prison sentence will be followed by 10 years of supervised release. Jones will continue to be required to register as a sex offender and will be subject to all registration conditions.

“It’s very gratifying to see this lengthy sentence, to be followed by a decade of supervised release, for a registered sex offender who had attempted to continue to exploit and molest children,” Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden said. “Through the joint efforts of all involved, that opportunity has been extinguished for decades to come.”

The conviction was the result of an investigation conducted by the Homeland Security Investigations and the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Jeffrey Tharp prosecuted the case.

This article originally appeared on Northwest Florida Daily News: Laurel Hill man gets 20 years in prison for child exploitation charges