Man charged with child exploitation

Published 10:59 pm Monday, April 20, 2009

A complaint made by the parents of a 14 year-old girl found that a 21 year-old man was attempting to lure her into a physical meeting.

The complaint the parents presented to the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department stated that the suspect, Anthony R. Bennett, 21, of 28100 Leetown Rd., had been communicating with the juvenile via MySpace, Yahoo chat and text messages. Chief Investigator Donnie Saucier said the parents provided the department printouts of the conversations, which are sexually explicit.

During the investigation it was learned that Bennett was attempting to lure the girl into a physical meeting so investigators conducted an undercover operation on Friday where Det. Christa Groom posed as the victim and sent Bennett sexually explicit text messages. A meeting location and time were arranged for a public place. When Bennett arrived, he was arrested and charged with exploitation of a child.

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Saucier said the charge carries a minimum of five years and a maximum of 40 years if convicted.

Last November, Bennett was arrested by the Sheriff’s Department on the charge of touching of a child. He allegedly had improperly touched a child while working as a summer vacation Bible school volunteer.

The church informed the Sheriff’s Department and cooperated in the investigation, which led to Bennett’s arrest, according to a previous story in the Picayune Item.