Navy lieutenant pleads guilty of using internet to seek sex with child

Michael McNeil, 31, faces minimum of 10 years in federal prison

Clay County Sheriff's Office booking photo of Michael McNeil
Clay County Sheriff's Office booking photo of Michael McNeil

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Mayport Navy lieutenant has pleaded guilty to using the internet to attempt to entice a child to engage in sexual activity, the Department of Justice announced Friday.

Michael Douglas McNeil faces a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of life in federal prison.

McNeil, 31, has been detained since his Aug. 30 arrest, which the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said was part of Operation DUVAL, standing for standing for Disrupting Underage Virtual Abuse Locally. JSO detectives teamed with nearly a dozen other law enforcement agencies in the trolling sting.

According to court documents, on Aug. 27, a detective with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, who was posing online as a family member of a 12-year-old handicapped child, received a message on a social media app from McNeil, who identified himself as “Mark.”

Prosecutors said McNeil expressed interested in having sex with the “child” and was told that the “child” was 12 years old.

Over a four-day period, according to authorities, McNeil and the undercover detective discussed plans for McNeil to meet the “child” for sex and McNeil asked for several photos of the “child,” sent the undercover detective an explicit photo of himself, and asked specific questions about the “child’s” sexual experience and abilities.

McNeil was arrested when he arrived at a Starbucks in Orange Park, where he thought he was going to meet the girl, authorities said. 

During an interview, McNeil admitted, among other things, that he showed up to meet the “child” because of his “curiosity” about “a younger girl," according to the DOJ.

The case was investigated by the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. 

It is another case brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. 

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