Registered sex offender to spend decades behind bars for receiving child porn

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A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced a Raleigh man to 20 years in prison for receiving child pornography on his smart phone and computers.

Investigators also learned that Thomas Paul Keeler II was a registered sex offender who was an administrator of a Internet chatroom that distributed child pornography, according to a news release made public Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Senior U.S. District Judge Malcolm J. Howard also ordered that once Keeler, 48, is released from prison he must undergo a lifetime of supervision, U.S. Attorney Robert J. Higdon, Jr.

Keeler came to the attention of federal authorities on Feb. 26, 2016, when investigators with the Department of Homeland Security in Tampa, Fla., contacted their colleagues in Raleigh to inform them of an unidentified smart phone user who was posting child pornography in several chatrooms, Higdon reported.

Investigators identified the chatroom subscriber. An undercover agent, posing as the father of a 13-year-old girl, contacted the subscriber, Higdon reported.

“The perpetrator’s chat conversations were graphic and explicit in nature as he repeatedly expressed a desire to meet the undercover agent and his fictional 13-year-old daughter in person,” Higdon stated in the news release. “The suspect made it clear that his intentions were to engage in sexually prohibited conduct with the 13-year-old female.”

The subscriber and the undercover agent arranged to meet at the Red Roof Inn in Cary, according to the release.

Meanwhile, federal agents reviewed Keeler’s profile page and used facial recognition software to positively identify him. The investigators also learned that Keeler is a registered sex offender, Higdon reported.

Cary police arrested Keeler in the Red Roof Inn parking lot on March 24, 2016. They searched his vehicle and found a condom and a pair of handcuffs. The agents also seized Keeler’s smart phone.

The agents also searched Keeler’s home, where they seized two computers, along with a hard drive and flash drive. Investigators reviewed Keeler’s smart phone and found multiple chatrooms used for the distribution of child pornography.

The agents determined Keeler was the administrator for one of the chatroom groups.

“In order to become a member of the group, an individual was required to post an image of child pornography or he/she was banned from entering the group,” Higdon reported.

Federal agents found that Keeler had distributed 51 child pornography videos and had multiple chat conversations with “young girls” between Aug. 8, 2015 and March 24, 2016, according to the news release.

The investigators also discovered more than 1,400 photos and 470 videos of child pornography on Keeler’s smart phone and computers, Higdon reported.

At the time of his arrest in 2016, Keeler told the officers that he had a prior conviction for transportation of child pornography.

Thomasi McDonald: 919-829-4533, @thomcdonald