A Warren County man’s prior conviction on charges that he attempted to meet a minor for sex could be used against him when he is sentenced this month on similar charges in federal court.
Mark Allen Johnson, 31, of Rockfield, is due to be sentenced April 13 in U.S. District Court in Bowling Green on charges of distribution of child pornography, attempted enticement and attempted transfer of obscene material to a minor.
Johnson pleaded guilty to the charges in January without having a plea agreement in place.
Federal prosecutors are seeking a sentence of 24 years and four months in prison for Johnson, arguing that the nature of the federal offenses and a prior conviction in state court merit a lengthy punishment.
In a sentencing memorandum filed Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Madison Sewell details that Johnson pleaded guilty last year in McCracken County to a state charge of prohibited use of electronic communication systems to procure a minor.
The McCracken County case stemmed from an allegation that Johnson communicated for a week in 2016 with an undercover law enforcement officer posing as a juvenile, asking to engage in sex acts with an 11-year-old and a 13-year-old girl and traveling to Paducah in hopes of meeting with the juveniles, court records show.
Johnson pleaded guilty last year in the McCracken County case but was already under investigation in the federal case.
Sewell’s memorandum includes an electronic message Johnson purportedly sent last year to who he believed was a 13-year-old girl in Roswell, Ga.
The message said the FBI had seized his phone, and Johnson is alleged to have asked the person on the other end not to send any messages to that number.
Sewell said Johnson was going by the name “Jonathan” in his messages to the supposed Georgia teenager, who was actually an undercover police officer based there.
“He had been talking to her for a week, with overtly sexual conversations, and on Feb. 11, 2020, he had sent her a video of child pornography,” Sewell said in the filing.
Johnson also sent a picture of the federal search warrant to the undercover officer, who contacted the FBI agent listed on the warrant.
“The FBI agent explained that, like the Georgia officer, he too had an undercover account and had been chatting online with Johnson,” Sewell’s memorandum said.
Johnson is alleged to have sent the FBI agent a picture of his genitals and offered to meet with who he believed was a juvenile for sex.
Sewell explains that the message to the Georgia officer and the video of child sexual exploitation were sent after Johnson had pleaded guilty to the charge in McCracken County, for which he faces a five-year sentence.
“Given the serious nature of Johnson’s repeated criminal conduct, a significant sentence is in order,” Sewell said in the filing.
According to court records, Johnson initiated a conversation with the undercover FBI agent, posing as a 15-year-old girl, on a dating app in 2019.
Over a two-month period stretching into last year, Johnson sent a number of sexually explicit messages to the agent and arranged to meet with the purported juvenile for sex.
FBI agents set up surveillance Feb. 10, 2020, near the place where Johnson agreed to meet with the undercover agent, but Johnson was not observed at the location, federal court records show.
A criminal complaint said Johnson used a profile listed under the name “Jason Edwards,” but investigation of internet and phone records enabled the FBI to establish the account belonged to Johnson.
“It appears that the suspect is not using his real photos and may actually be using the photos of other unknown individuals,” FBI Special Agent Bradley Smith said in the criminal complaint.
FBI agents executed a search warrant at Johnson’s home in February and seized multiple cellphones and other devices.
On Feb. 14, 2020, the FBI was contacted by the detective in Georgia.
Federal sentencing guidelines, which take into account the details of a defendant’s crimes and prior criminal history, recommend a sentence between 24 years, four months and 30 years, five months for Johnson in the federal case.
The plea agreement in the McCracken County case recommends a five-year sentence on the state charge, to be served consecutively to any sentence Johnson receives in any other criminal case.