The FINANCIAL – A former elementary school teacher appeared in federal court Thursday to plead guilty to soliciting child sexual abuse material (CSAM) from minors.
Jonathan C. Villmer, Jr., 25, of New Baden, Illinois, was charged via criminal complaint in August 2023. Prior to his charge, Villmer was a teacher at New Baden Elementary School and coached girls’ sports teams for Wesclin Community Unit School District 3.
“We know child predators lurk in our communities, but it’s especially disturbing when a former first grade teacher and coach admits to asking minors for inappropriate images,” said U.S. Attorney Rachelle Aud Crowe. “I highly commend the several law enforcement departments who contributed to this investigation and identified an extremely dangerous individual working directly with minors.”
The case was initiated by an otherwise unrelated investigation by the Carmi Police Department regarding the distribution of CSAM. The investigation led law enforcement officers to a Snapchat account soliciting CSAM connected to Villmer.
According to court documents, after obtaining a search warrant for Villmer’s Snapchat account, police discovered explicit conversations with a 13-year-old minor. Villmer asked the minor for the “sexiest images,” discussed having sex and taking the minor’s virginity, and requested photographs of her genitals. Law enforcement identified other occurrences of sexually explicit conversations and requests for images with other purported minors within Villmer’s Snapchat account.
Based upon IP address records associated with the Snapchat account, law enforcement connected the account to Villmer. On Aug. 18, 2023, law enforcement executed a search warrant on Villmer’s New Baden residence and seized two cell phones and other electronic devices. Villmer was arrested on scene.
“The importance of this case and guilty plea cannot be overstated. Investigations involving the exploitation of children are horrible, but it is particularly troubling when the accused occupies a position of public trust and seeks to exploit the most vulnerable in our society,” said HSI Chicago Special Agent in Charge Sean Fitzgerald. “HSI will continue to work closely with our local, state and federal partners to bring those who would sexually exploit children to justice.”
Villmer’s sentencing is scheduled for April 24, 2024 at 1:30, and his charge carries a minimum of 5 years, and a maximum of up to 20 years’ imprisonment.
Tips to help keep your child safe on Snapchat
1. Make sure they sign up with the correct age
Set up your child’s Snapchat account together to make sure they sign up with correct age. This will automatically enable settings that help to limit unwanted contact from adults and access to certain features.
2. Talk to them about how to feel good on social media
Children and young people can face lots of different pressures online. Use Childline’s advice about How to feel good on social media to help give them the tools to manage their wellbeing online.
3. Set rules around friends
Before your child starts using the app, talk to them about who they can be friends with on the app. Tell them to come to you if they receive a friend request from someone they don’t know.
4. Know where to report
There is a chance that your child could come across inappropriate or upsetting content on Snapchat. If this happens, you should report it to the platform. To report a Snap or a story, press and hold on it, then select ‘Report Snap’.
5. Talk about what is ok / not ok to share
Ensure that your child knows what personal and private information is, and what is, and is not, appropriate to share online.
6. Explore the safety features
Read below about the 10 safety features that are available, like privacy settings and ‘Snapchat Family Centre’.
What safety features are available on Snapchat?
Snapchat’s new family centre gives you an overview of your child’s activity on the app. By linking your account to your child’s, you can see a list of their friends and who they have contacted in the last seven days – but not the content of those messages. Family centre also gives you access to a confidential reporting service that allows you to report any concerns directly to Snapchat’s Trust and Safety team.
Enabling this will stop other users from seeing your child’s location. To edit location settings, go to the cog button in the right-hand corner of the screen. Then enable ‘Ghost mode’ and select ‘until switched off’ to make sure it stays enabled.
Limit contact from adult users
Snapchat has introduced restrictions to help limit unwanted contact from adults. Adults will not be allowed to add young people who are 17 and under unless they have a certain number of friends in common. This won’t stop all contact from adults, but it will help to limit it.
There are different privacy settings available that will help to limit who can see your child’s account and contact them. Who can contact me – This lets you manage who can contact your child. Who can view my story – Here you can block specific people from viewing their story. To explore the different privacy settings available, select the cog in the right-hand side of the screen and select ‘Privacy’.
Default chat functions
By default, you can’t chat to someone on Snapchat unless you are friends. Make sure to speak to your child about who they accept friend requests from.
To report another user, press and hold on their Snapchat ID, select ‘More’ and ‘Report’. Visit our reporting online safety concerns advice page or contact the NSPCC Helpline for more support.