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Bloomington Man Sentenced to Thirty Years in Federal Prison for Sexually Exploiting a Child Under His Care

— December 7, 2023

At the time the video was recorded, the child victim was between 12- and 16-years-old and was under Vestal’s care, custody, or control.

INDIANAPOLIS – Joshua Ray Vestal, 40, of Bloomington has been sentenced to 30 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to sexual exploitation of a child.

According to court documents, on September 5, 2022, Joshua Vestal forced a child to engage in sexually explicit conduct with him, and Vestal filmed the conduct with his cell phone. At the time the video was recorded, the child victim was between 12- and 16-years-old and was under Vestal’s care, custody, or control.

Four days later, a witness discovered the video and multiple nude images of the child on Vestal’s phone. The witness identified Vestal and the child in the video. The witness sent the images and video to her personal phone to preserve the evidence, and then confronted Vestal about what they found.

When the witness confronted Vestal, he took their cell phone and submerged it in a toilet. Vestal then performed a factory reset on his own cell phone and took out the SIM card in an attempt to erase the digital evidence. However, when the witness obtained a new phone, they found the video of Vestal sexually abusing the child synced to their electronic account. The following day, Bloomington Police Department officers arrested Vestal for sexual exploitation of a child.

“Everyone deserves a childhood free from sexual abuse, and it is up to us as adults to do all we can to protect children. This defendant not only sexually abused a vulnerable child entrusted in his care, he then attempted to conceal his heinous acts by destroying the evidence,” said Zachary A. Myers, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana “The serious sentence imposed in this case will ensure that children are protected from this predator for several decades to come. I commend the Bloomington Police Department, FBI, Indiana State Police, and state and federal prosecutors for stopping the abuse of this child, and preventing the abuse of others who may have fallen within his grasp in the future.”

“Indiana State Police investigators work diligently every day, all across Indiana, and in close collaboration with its law enforcement partners, to help bring to justice those who seek to perpetuate the victimization of children”, said Indiana State Police Superintendent Douglas G. Carter.

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The FBI investigated this case with valuable assistance provided by the Bloomington Police Department, Indiana State Police, and the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office. The sentence was imposed by U.S. District Court Judge Matthew P. Brookman. Judge Brookman also ordered that Vestal be supervised by the U.S. Probation Office for life following his release from federal prison and pay $10,000 in restitution to the child victim. Vestal is also required to register as a sex offender wherever he lives, works, or attends school for the rest of his life.

U.S. Attorney Myers thanked Assistant United States Attorney Kyle M. Sawa, who prosecuted this case.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the 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.

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