Illinois pastor sentenced to federal prison for sharing child porn through social media

Reverend Steven Tibbetts has collected explicit imagery since the 1990s.

A former pastor at a Lutheran church in Godfrey, Illinois was sentenced last week to 10 years in federal prison for knowingly distributing child pornography.

Steven P. Tibbetts, 62, will also be placed on 10 years of supervised release following his prison term, and must pay over $10,000 in fines to the government.

Tibbetts was indicted in July of 2020 after officers acting on a search warrant discovered thousands of explicit images and videos uploaded to a Tumblr account named “youarenaughty.” The company had reported the information through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children upon finding the child pornography, and also forwarded the complaint to the Peoria Police Department, where the IP address related to the account came from.

The trove contained images and video of boys as young as 7 engaging in masturbation, oral sex, and nude dancing in a lascivious and explicit manner. The PPD turned over the investigation to the FBI after records related to IP and email addresses provided a link back to Tibbetts, who lived in Godfrey at the time.

While the probe was still ongoing, in February of 2020, Twitter filed a cyber tipline report with NCMEC after officials found two images of child porn uploaded by user “birefugee.” The images depicted two young boys engaged in a sex act on a white mattress. Investigators were later able to link the “birefugee” Twitter account to the “youarenaughty” Tumblr account, and identified both as having belonged to Tibbetts.

In June of 2020, a federal search warrant was executed at Tibbetts home, where he sat down for an interview with FBI agents. During the questioning, Tibbetts admitted to owning the Tumblr account and told authorities that he had been collecting child porn since the 1990s, storing them on various devices in his home including hard drives, CDs, and computers. He also told officials he had a sexual attraction to young boys.

An analysis of Tibbett’s main computer revealed thousands of explicit images. Officials say several videos depicted boys between the ages of 9 and 14 performing various sexual acts on each other, with fetishized titles such as “Jewish SuperBoys” and “Brothers Jerk.”

A federal judge last month recommended Tibbetts be housed at USP Marion, a mid-level facility in Williamson County, Illinois. He will surrender himself into custody at the BOP facility upon notification from the US Marshals service.

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