MIDLAND, Texas — An Abilene man was one of two defendants sentenced to serve time in federal prison on charges of child exploitation.

James Vernon Foster, 57, of Abilene, received a 15-year sentence for his offenses. Christopher David Mayhall, 42, of Dublin, was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison.

The two cases were unrelated; however, the men were both sentenced by a federal judge in Midland, according to a press release from the United States Attorney's Office Western District of Texas - U.S. Attorney John F. Bash and FBI Special Agent in Charge Emmerson Buie Jr., El Paso Division.

On July 18, 2019, U.S. District Judge David Counts sentenced Foster to 15 years in federal prison followed by 10 years of supervised release. Additionally, Counts ordered Foster to pay a $5,000 assessment under the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act.

In February 2019, an FBI agent acting in an undercover capacity began chatting online with Foster, according to the release. The undercover agent indicated that he had access to two minor children; and Foster expressed a sexual interest in the children.

Throughout the next few weeks, the conversations between the agent and Foster became increasingly sexual in nature; and eventually a meet-up was scheduled. On March 21, 2019, Foster arrived in Midland for the purported meeting, expecting to have sexual relations with the children and was arrested by federal agents. Foster pleaded guilty to the charge of attempted enticement of a minor on May 14, 2019.

On July 11, 2019, Judge Counts sentenced Mayhall to 20 years in federal prison followed by 10 years of supervised release.

In November 2018, an FBI agent acting in the same undercover capacity began chatting online with Mayhall. Mayhall also expressed a sexual interest in the children. Throughout the next few weeks, the conversations between the agent and Mayhall became increasingly sexual in nature; and eventually, the release states, Mayhall asked the agent to take nude photographs of the children and send them to him.

Additionally, Mayhall sent the agent a video of a young child being sexually abused. In January 2019, Mayhall was charged with one count of attempted production of child pornography and one count of distribution of child pornography.

He pleaded guilty to the attempted production charge on May 15, 2019. 

FBI agents in Midland conducted this investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Shane A. Chriesman prosecuted these cases on behalf of the government. 

The releases states, this case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, 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, go to projectsafechildhood.gov.