ST. GEORGE — A Milford man found with nearly 80 files of images depicting the sexual abuse of children appeared in a Beaver County courtroom for sentencing on felony sexual exploitation of a minor.

On Feb. 5, John Frank Mcray, 44, appeared in 5th District Court in Beaver City facing one second-degree felony count of sexual exploitation of a minor and one misdemeanor drug charge. During a resolution hearing held in December, Mcray pleaded no contest to the felony charge and entered a guilty plea on the misdemeanor drug charge, while the four remaining felony sexual exploitation of a minor charges were dismissed in exchange for the no-contest plea.

Federal task force sting 

On the morning of Oct. 16, 2023, Mcray was taken into custody by federal agents as he was leaving his workplace near Heritage Park Drive in Milford. The arrest was part of a multi-agency investigation by the Department of Homeland Security and the Internet Crimes Against Children task force that began in June.

The first of several tips came into the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s cyber tipline reporting that child sexual abuse material had been uploaded to a device that belonged to Mcray, according to charging documents filed at the time of the arrest.

While speaking to agents, Mcray reportedly said he had joined a chat thread using a messaging app that uses the internet to send messages, images and video. He said he believed the message thread was a private chat with a female and it was only after he joined that he learned it was “some sort of group chat,” according to the report.

It was in this group message thread, Mcray said, that other users were sharing pornographic images, which he said were “automatically being downloaded to his phone,” the report states. Once he discovered the illicit files, he said he left the group chat and deleted the images, only to learn later the images had been uploaded to a cloud account, so he also deleted those files.

Through researching the messaging application, investigators determined that in order to download the images to a cellphone or upload an image to a cloud account, the subscriber would have to select the image to do so.

In all, more than 80 files depicting the sexual abuse of children were uploaded to that device in three separate batch downloads between June and October 2023, investigators say, adding that the defendant ultimately admitted the email account and cellphone number in question belonged to him.

Sentencing hearing in 5th District Court in Beaver City 

The sentencing hearing held Feb. 5 was presided over by District Judge Ann Marie Mciff-Allen. The defendant was represented by defense attorney Tara Mosley and the state was represented by Prosecutor Von Christiansen.

In lieu of the 1-15 year prison sentence that was suspended in the case, Mcray was ordered to serve 210 days in jail, with credit for the 112 days he had already served since his arrest on Oct. 16.

Christiansen told St. George News the presentence investigation report outlined sentencing guidelines, which recommended a sentence of 210 days in jail, which he said he thought was appropriate.

The prosecutor said the defense argued for less time in jail, while the state argued against a reduced sentence. In the end, he said the judge followed the sentencing guidelines during her ruling. Before the present case, he said, the defendant had a minimal criminal record, other than a fraud conviction in Iron County from two decades ago.

Christiansen said he asked that Mcray complete a psychosexual evaluation and complete all recommended treatments, a recommendation that was not included in the presentence report. The prosecutor said this would allow the defendant to undergo counseling or other treatment needed to address the issues that led to the charges in the first place.

The defendant will also be required to register as a sex offender for 10 years, which is one of the conditions associated with the second-degree felony exploitation conviction.

In addition to treatment, the defendant will be placed on 48 months’ probation with Adult Probation and Parole so he can be monitored upon his release. Mcray must comply with all sex offender conditions as outlined by Adult Probation and Parole, such as providing a DNA sample and participating in substance abuse treatment, as well as paying a $1,440 fine.

The defendant is currently serving out his sentence at the Beaver County Jail and is expected to be released at the end of April.

This report is based on statements from court records, attorneys, investigators and jail personnel and may not contain the full scope of findings.

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