Multi-State investigation led by Att. Gen. Cameron
Frankfort, KY – Attorney General Daniel Cameron today announced that an investigation by the Department of Criminal Investigations Cyber Crimes Unit in partnership with the United States Secret Service, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson’s Office, and United States Attorney Peter McCoy, Jr., has led to the arrest of a South Carolina man. Nathan Branham, 39, of Cheraw, South Carolina, is charged with online enticement of a minor and transferring obscene material to a minor.
In early May, a Kentucky mother reached out to the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office regarding Branham’s contact with her 13-year-old daughter online. Branham used the screenname “Mystic” to communicate with the young girl on UpLive, an online livestreaming platform. During the course of the conversation, “Mystic” convinced her that he was a 16-year-old boy and asked that she contact him via video call using Google Duo.
Once the two were connected using the video call app, the 13-year-old immediately realized that “Mystic” was an adult male and ended the call. Branham continued to contact her and threatened to use her phone number to find her location if she did not contact him again. When she complied, he told her to expose herself, and he exposed himself. The 13-year-old immediately reported the incident to her mother, who contacted the Attorney General’s Department of Criminal Investigations and spoke with investigator Heather D’Hondt.
“When a Kentucky child is exploited and threatened by online predators, our Cyber Crimes Unit works to ensure that the perpetrator is found and brought to justice,” said Attorney General Cameron. “Our strong alliances with state and federal law enforcement transcend state borders and were essential in this investigation and subsequent arrest. I appreciate the strong work of investigator D’Hondt in our office as well as the Secret Service, Attorney General Wilson’s Office, and U.S. Attorney McCoy.”
The Department of Criminal Investigations worked closely with the United States Secret Service to investigate the case with the support of the South Carolina Attorney General’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force. The case is being prosecuted by Derek A. Shoemake, Assistant United States Attorney.
“This case illustrates why it’s crucial that our states work together to protect our children,” said South Carolina Attorney General Wilson. “Criminals using the internet don’t stop at state lines when they’re looking for victims so we have to work across state lines to bring them to justice.”
“The Secret Service is honored to work with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to stop criminals that are exploiting children,” said Ralph Gerdes, Assistant Special Agent in Charge for the United States Secret Service Louisville Field Office. “The Louisville Field Office will always be here to utilize our unique cyber-crime capabilities to protect the American people.”
Branham had a detention hearing in United States District Court on Tuesday. Testimony during the court proceedings revealed that Branham engaged in similar interactions with minors on more than thirty occasions. He also has previous convictions for indecent exposure, assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
“This office will aggressively prosecute those who prey on children, and we have developed great working relationships with our federal and state partners to further those efforts,” said U.S. Attorney McCoy. “The complaint here, of course, speaks for itself and the defendant is presumed innocent.”
The Attorney General’s Department of Criminal Investigations Cyber Crimes Unit targets online predators who seek to exploit children. The unit is comprised of investigators and forensic detectives who support local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. To learn more, visit https://ag.ky.gov.