Orlando, Florida – U.S. District Judge Paul G. Byron has sentenced Michael VanNess, Jr. (Clermont, 39) to 80 years in federal prison, followed by a lifetime of supervised release, for production and distribution of child sex abuse material. The court also ordered VanNess, Jr. to forfeit a cellphone, which was used to commit the offense. VanNess, Jr. had pleaded guilty on July 21, 2023.
According to court documents, the investigation began when VanNess, Jr. uploaded child sex abuse material involving young children to a social media group. Subsequently, a search warrant was executed on his phone. Evidence recovered from the phone showed that VanNess, Jr. had sexually abused a 14-year-old victim over a seven-month span. VanNess, Jr. recorded the sexual abuse and threatened the child victim to ensure his illegal conduct remained a secret.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Courtney D. Richardson-Jones and Shannon Laurie.
This is another case 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.