A Spartanburg County Sheriff's deputy has been arrested and fired after a U.S. Department of Homeland Security investigation led to accusations of inappropriate contact with an underage girl who lives in another state.
Sgt. Chris Wilbanks has been charged with coercing a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct for photos or video, according to an affidavit filed in federal court on Monday. Wilbanks lives in Newberry County.
Wilbanks was fired after a meeting with deputies and federal investigators Friday, Lt. Kevin Bobo, a spokesman for the Sheriff's Office, said in an email. Court records show that he was arrested that same day.
Police in the state of Washington responded to a woman whose 11-year-old daughter had received inappropriate communications on her phone, court records state.
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The communications were sent on Kik, a photo and video messaging app.
On Jan. 3, the girl received messages from a user called "Redneck Rick," court records state. The user claimed to be a 14-year-old boy who went to the girl's school.
During the course of the investigation, it was determined "Redneck Rick" was Wilbanks' profile on Kik, investigators said in court documents.
Those documents say Wilbanks asked the girl for photos of her wearing athletic apparel and a swimsuit. Eventually, Wilbanks asked for nude photos of the girl, court records state.
The girl refused at first, but Wilbanks told her he would show the photos to other people unless she sent more, according to the court records.
Court records indicate the girl was visibly upset and crying in several of the images. Wilbanks told her not to look so upset and to smile, according to those records.
In all, the girl sent 22 photos to Wilbanks, half of which were nude or partially clothed, the records state.
On Jan. 24, investigators matched the cell phone number used on Kik to Wilbanks, records state.
Court records indicate investigators tied Wilbanks to the "Redneck Rick" profile during an interview with him Friday. That interview included investigators reading exchanges between "Redneck Rick" and the girl to Wilbanks.
Wilbanks joined the Spartanburg County Sheriff's Office in 1998, according to the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy.
He has had no prior disciplinary actions, Criminal Justice Academy records state.
Bobo would not comment further.