COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – A Fortson man has been sentenced to serve more than 12 years in federal prison in a child exploitation case. An international investigation involving agencies in both the United States and Canada lead to the arrest and eventual conviction of Brandon Bywater, who was using social media to target his victim.
On July 14, 2021, Bywater, 27, was sentenced to serve 151 months for the charges of coercion and enticement of a minor. He pleaded guilty to the charges back in March.
“Kids need to know that hidden predators lurk on social media,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary. “In this case, the child victim did not know she was interacting with an adult male who collected child pornography of prepubescent children.”
The investigation into Bywater began in June 2018, after the social media messaging app Kik contacted the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Centre for Missing and Exploited Children when image of child pornography was uploaded to the app by a user named “drawingkid500.”
Geo-location was used to trace the user’s IP address to the United States and Homeland Security was brought into the investigation.
Using information from Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Homeland Security obtained a search warrant and conducted a search of Bywater’s home.
“The success of this case demonstrates the excellent interagency work between those investigators here at home and abroad who are committed to protecting children,” said Leary.
Investigators say, during questioning Bywater admitted to being “drawingkid500.” He also admitting to downloading and receiving disturbing images involving child pornography.
According to investigators, 27 images of related to child pornography or child exploitation were found to be in Bywater’s possession. Investigators say 14 of those images were pornographic images of prepubescent children.
Investigators say they also discovered Bywater had pretended to high school sophomore named “Jack” and had been in communication with a 13-year-old girl.
Forensic examination of a device seized from Bywater showed he had texted the girl more than 400 times. In the texts, investigators say Bywater worked to entice his victim to send nude photos of herself to him. He also sent nude photos of himself the the victim.
“It’s unfortunate that there are predators like Bywater lurking in the shadows online waiting for their next victim,” said Special Agent in Charge Katrina W. Berger, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in Georgia and Alabama.
Berger said that individuals like Bywater make it necessary for parents to be extra vigilant went it comes to monitoring their children’s online activities.
“Fortunately, he will not be able to post or share these disturbing images and is being held accountable for his crimes against innocent children,” said Berger.
Under the sex offender registry act, following Bywater’s release from prison, he will be required to register as a sex offender. He will also be under supervision for a period of ten years, following his release from prison.