Jacksonville, Florida – United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces that Seth Estes Vanover (51, Diana, Texas) has pleaded guilty to attempting to entice an 11-year-old child to engage in sexual activity using an online social messaging application (app). Vanover faces a minimum mandatory penalty of 10 years, up to life, imprisonment, and a potential life term of supervised release. Vanover was arrested on October 12, 2022, at the Longview Police Department in Texas where he was employed as a sworn law enforcement officer. Vanover is currently detained pending his sentencing hearing.
According to court documents, on July 25, 2022, an undercover FBI agent began an online operation designed to identify adults seeking to make online contact with and engage in sexual activity with children. Posing as the parent of an 11-year-old child, the agent posted a notice in a public chat room of an online social messaging app. That day, Vanover, using the name “jattleson,” contacted the agent using a private messaging feature of the app. Vanover confirmed that he was “into yung” and sent the agent several photos depicting child erotica as well as a photo of a nude adult male. Vanover and the undercover agent discussed the sexual experience of the purported 11-year-old “child,” and Vanover stated that he would “love to” meet them in Florida and would “love to be naked with” the “child.” Vanover and the agent engaged in more conversations on the app on August 8 and 10, 2022, and September 19, 2022, during which the two discussed meeting in Florida so that Vanover could engage in sexual activity with the “child.” Vanover confirmed with the agent that the “child” was “open to have sex,” discussed details of the sexual acts that Vanover intended to perform on the “child,” and directed the agent to “[t]alk to [the “child”] about the intended sexual activity.”
On October 12, 2022, FBI agents arrested Vanover at the Longview Police Department and Vanover resigned on that same day. Agents searched a patrol vehicle used by Vanover and recovered a cellphone that belonged to Vanover. A review of the phone revealed that it contained at least 230 videos and 130 photos depicting the sexual abuse of children, including infants, toddlers, and young children. This phone also contained sexually explicit online written communications that Vanover had with other app users, as well as child sexual abuse videos and photos that Vanover received during some of these conversations.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with assistance and cooperation from the Longview Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney D. Rodney Brown.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.