United States Attorney Joe Kelly announced that Eric Bland, 37, of Laredo, Missouri was sentenced Friday, September 11, 2020, in federal court in Omaha, Nebraska, for coercion or enticement of a minor to engage in sexual activity. United States District Judge Robert F. Rossiter, Jr. sentenced Bland to 120 months’ imprisonment. There is no parole in the federal prison system. After his release from prison, Bland will serve a 5-year term of supervised release and will be required to register as a sex offender.
In early 2019, a woman working as a prostitute in Nebraska provided law enforcement with a screenshot of a conversation with a potential client. The client, later identified as Bland, asked the woman if she knew any “young skinny little black girls” wanting to make money and offered to pay the woman $50 per year under age 18 if the woman would find him an underage girl to have sex with, or $100 per year under age 18 if the underage girl would have unprotected sex. Law enforcement provided the woman with a phone number to give to Bland. In March 2019, Bland contacted the phone number by text message and engaged in a conversation with an FBI Task Force Officer posing as a fifteen-year-old female. Bland made arrangements to travel from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Omaha for the purposes of engaging in oral sex with the fifteen-year-old girl. Bland arrived in Omaha as scheduled and was arrested by officers.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by United States Attorney’s Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
This case was investigated by the Omaha FBI's Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force.