Gates County man pleads guilty to child sex crimes

Published 11:44 am Saturday, September 5, 2009

NORFOLK, Va. – A 32-year-old man with addresses in Gates County and Virginia Beach pled guilty to sex charges in federal court here Monday.

Shawn F. Engle entered guilty pleas to three counts of a superseding indictment charging him with sexual exploitation of a Pennsylvania minor, enticing a South Carolina minor to engage in sexual activity and witness tampering, according to information provided by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, also announced that, pending acceptance of the plea agreement, sentencing is scheduled before Senior United States District Judge Robert G. Doumar on November 30. Engle faces up to a maximum of 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $750,000, and a lifetime of supervised release.

During 2008, Engle sought to enter into sexual relationships with two minor girls who lived outside the Commonwealth of Virginia. At that time, Engle was 30-31 years of age, while the two minors were 13 and 17 years old, respectively.

After meeting both girls on the Internet, Engle mostly communicated with them by telephone text messaging, until such time as he sought physical contact with them.

During April 2008, Engle traveled from Virginia to Pennsylvania on two separate occasions to meet the 17-year-old minor. On the second of these visits, Engle picked up the minor, provided her with alcohol, and encouraged and persuaded her to engage in sexual activity with him, which he videotaped. After spending the weekend with the minor, Engle returned to Virginia Beach with the video camera and the sex tape.

During August 2008, Engle turned his attentions to the 13-year-old minor from South Carolina. At Engle’s prompting and after a family crisis, this minor decided to run away and requested that Engle pick her up. Engle did so and brought her to Virginia Beach.

He then transported the minor to a relative’s home in Gates County where the minor was found by Gates County authorities on September 16, 2008.

“Our involvement in this case came when the 13-year-old South Carolina child was found at a residence within our county,” Gates County Sheriff Ed Webb said.

Webb added that Sgt. Randy Hathaway talked with the young teen and upon learning she had been transported across state lines, initiated a criminal investigation.

“Sgt. Hathaway played it by the book…he secured the child, contacted our DSS (Department of Social Services) office and alerted authorities in South Carolina and Virginia about this incident,” Webb said.

The Sheriff added, “Upon learning that he has pled guilty to the charges, I’m glad that a child predator is off the street. This prevents what could have been another opportunity where a young person becomes a victim.”

Five weeks later (Oct. 24, 2008), Virginia Beach police arrested Engle on a kidnapping warrant out of South Carolina. During that arrest, they seized a video camera later found to contain the videotape showing Engle with the 17 year old minor from Pennsylvania.

U.S. Attorney’s Office officials said that while detained in Virginia Beach, Engle learned of a federal investigation into his activities and called and wrote letters to one of the victims and various witnesses attempting to get them to lie about his involvement and activities with the two minors.

In a letter to the 13-year-old victim, Engle also wrote about past sexual activities that he engaged in with the minor, and attempted to induce her to engage in such activities in the future, upon his release from incarceration.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Virginia Beach Police Department, the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office and the Gates County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorneys Robert Krask and Katherine Martin are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.