Truck driver accused of child sex crimes in WMass

Zack Sawyer purportedly met victims through online game

WWLP FILE IMAGE FROM 2014-Zack Sawyer, of Illinois. Image Courtesy: U.S. Marshals Service

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A cross-country truck driver accused of preying on children he met online has been arrested, and will face charges here in western Massachusetts.

The U.S. Marshal’s Service announced Tuesday that Zack Sawyer, 29, was arrested Tuesday morning at a relative’s home in Georgetown, Illinois. Sawyer was wanted in Hampshire County on charges of lewd and lascivious conduct with children, and extortion by threat.

The alleged lewd acts happened back in July. According to a news release sent to 22News by the U.S. Marshal’s service, Sawyer, who also has pending charges against him in Virginia, allegedly contacted his victims through an Internet game.

“This case was particularly troubling, because Sawyer was very mobile traveling through many states. Because of our close collaboration with the State Police and U.S. Marshals and the South Vermillion County Sheriff’s Department in Illinois, we were able to prevent any further victimization of young children,” U.S. Marshal John Gibbons said.

The agency says that Sawyer had been taunting law enforcement, and refusing to surrender to agents from the Department of Homeland Security. Sawyer is in state custody in Illinois, and will be extradited back to Massachusetts to face charges here.

For more information on this case, read the statement below from May Carey of the Northwestern D.A. Office:

Zack Sawyer, who is also known as Joshua Nield, 29, of Georgetown, Illinois, has been indicted on 3 counts of posing a child in the nude and 2 counts of extortion in connection with incidents involving two 13-year-old boys from Belchertown in 2010.

As a result of collaboration between Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Marshals Service, Homeland Security, and several local police departments around the country, Sawyer was apprehended in Georgetown, Illinois and is currently in custody.  The Northwestern District Attorney’s Office is waiting to learn whether Sawyer will waive or contest rendition.  He eventually will be arraigned in Hampshire Superior Court.

Sawyer is alleged to have solicited the boys  to send him naked pictures of themselves, after having met them online in an X-Box Live chat room in late April or early-May 2010, using a head-set system through which online game players can speak with each other over the Internet.  

After identifying himself by his full name, Sawyer is alleged to have said he was 24 years old and lived in Illinois.  He learned the ages of the boys in this conversation and later claimed to know identifying information about them that they had not shared. He is alleged to have made sexually explicit threats to the boys.

Following an investigation by the Belchertown Police Department and Massachusetts State Police Detective Unit attached to the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office, Illinois State Police located and interviewed Sawyer on April 15, 2011.  Sawyer is alleged to have had conversations with somewhere between 800 and 3,000 online “acquaintances

A Hampshire Superior Court indicted Sawyer on July 7, 2014.  The Northwestern District Attorney’s Office sought a warrant for his arrest on the same day.  As information had developed that Sawyer was moving about the country, Massachusetts State Police Sgt. Thomas Bakey contacted the U.S. Marshall’s Service for assistance in locating and apprehending him. 

The Northwestern District Attorney’s Office warns parents and young people that a number of cases come to the attention of the office each year in which online gaming is used by criminals to target young people.  Parents should make a point of being aware of who their child’s “friends” are, online as well as in person.  Young people should be alert to the fact that a person may not be who he represents himself to be online and limit online gaming to people they know in person, such as relatives, classmates, and teammates.  Parents should become familiar with, and enable, parental controls.  Experts recommend that games with online connections be kept in a central location of the house where parents can monitor use.

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