A Boone man who worked part of the 2018-19 school year as a wrestling coach and also as a Daymark Recovery Services counselor at West Wilkes Middle School pleaded guilty to production of child pornography as part of a plea agreement in U.S. District Court in Charlotte on Feb. 18.

Frank Darrell Cromwell, 24, admitted to inducing a minor victim to engage in sexually explicit conduct and to send him explicit images and videos between December 2018 and February 2019 while communicating with the minor via Snapchat, stated a press release from the U.S. attorney’s office in Charlotte.

Cromwell entered his guilty plea as part of plea agreement before U.S. Magistrate Judge David C. Keesler. A sentencing date hasn’t been set, but he now faces between 15 and 30 years in prison.

A federal grand jury in Charlotte indicted Cromwell on 21 counts on Aug. 22, 2019, including production of child pornography, enticement of a minor, communicating threats, cyberstalking and related offenses.

The 12-page indictment referred to 10 different victims and identified them by numbers one through 10. A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office said authorities believe there are more victims.

The indictment charged Cromwell with using cell phone apps, including Snapchat and Kik, and other means to contact and entice juvenile male victims to produce and send to him sexually explicit images and videos of themselves between October 2018 and February 2019. The indictment said these were transported in interstate commerce by computer.

He was accused of threatening to distribute sexually explicit images or videos of one victim to gain more of the same from the person.

The indictment said Cromwell was in Boone when he committed the offenses. Seized during a search of his apartment on Old East King Street in Boone were Galaxy cell phone, two iPhones, Surface Pro, various notes, HP ProBook, three T-mobile phones, two rechargeable batteries and a zip drive.

The federal indictment replaced charges filed by Boone police against Cromwell, which were five counts of first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor and four counts of second-degree sexual exploitation or a minor.

Daymark Recovery Services also employed Cromwell and assigned him to West Wilkes Middle School in the 2018-19 school year. Daymark provided mental health counseling and therapeutic day treatment for Wilkes elementary and middle school students under a contract with the Wilkes schools at the time.

Cromwell “allegedly tried to gain access to children by obtaining employment in places where he could embed himself with underage boys, including a high school, a summer camp, a middle school and a behavioral healthcare facility,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray.

Also on Feb. 18 in U.S. District Court in Charlotte, Judge Kenneth D. Bell sentenced Joshua Wayne Clemons, 40, of Boone to 25 years in prison on child pornography charges unrelated to the Cromwell case. Clemons was also ordered to pay a $52,000 special assessment fee, serve a lifetime of supervised release and register as a sex offender after he is released from prison.

Clemons used a peer-two-peer network to download and transmit child pornography in October 2019, according to court documents and statements made in court. In November 2019, law enforcement executed a search warrant at Clemons’ residence and seized numerous computer devices and a cell phone. A forensic review of the seized devices found than 755 images depicting sexual abuse of children on them.

On Aug.11, 2020, Clemons pleaded guilty to possession and distribution and attempted distribution of child pornography. At the Feb. 18 sentencing hearing, Bell enhanced Clemons’ sentence due to his prior convictions of indecent liberties with a child.

The Cromwell and Clemons cases were investigated as part of Project Safe Childhood, a U.S. Department of Justice initiative involving federal, state and local resources to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse.

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