Jacksonville, Florida –United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces that a federal jury today found Samuel Arthur Thompson (53, St. Augustine) guilty of producing, receiving, and possessing child sex abuse material (CSAM), producing CSAM while required to register as a sex offender, violating the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), sending unauthorized damaging commands to a protected computer, and possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. Thompson faces a mandatory minimum term of 35 years’ imprisonment. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 25, 2024. Thompson was first charged by criminal complaint in 2019.
According to evidence presented at trial, Thompson was convicted of sodomizing of a 14-year-old male child in 1998, in Alabama, and was therefore a convicted felon required to register as a sex offender, including reporting his international travel.
Thompson was hired as a contractor by the Jacksonville Jaguars around 2013 to consult on the design and installation of the Jaguars’ new video board network, referred to as a jumbotron, and later to operate the jumbotron on gamedays. Thompson’s contract with the Jaguars required him to report his conviction, but he did not. In January 2018, the Jaguars determined not to renew Thompson’s contract after learning of his conviction and status as a registered sex offender. Before the expiration of Thompson’s contract in March 2018, Thompson installed remote access software on a spare server in the Jaguars’ server room. He then remotely accessed computers that control the jumbotron during three 2018 season NFL games, causing the video boards repeatedly to malfunction.
After conducting an investigation, the Jaguars determined that the outages were being caused by a malicious actor sending commands via the spare server. On December 16, 2018, the Jaguars set up a “honeypot” by putting the server on its own network and removing its access to the other computers that controlled the jumbotron. During the next NFL game, the spare server was again remotely accessed and attempted to be used to send commands to computers controlling the jumbotron. The Jaguars were able to capture the internet protocol (IP) address of the intruder – which the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) traced to Thompson’s residence.
In July 2019, the FBI executed a federal search warrant at Thompson’s residence and seized a number of his computers. The FBI also seized a firearm from Thompson’s nightstand, which he was prohibited from possessing as a convicted felon.
Log files from Thompson’s iPhone, iPad, and two laptops showed that all those devices had been used to remotely access the spare server. Additionally, the FBI found thousands of images and hundreds of videos on multiple defendant’s personal devices depicting CSAM. This CSAM included images and videos depicting the sexual abuse of prepubescent children, bondage and torture of children, and bestiality. The CSAM also included a video and series of photos that Thompson produced in June 2019 depicting children that had been in his care and custody. Thompson’s voice could be heard speaking to the children at the beginning of the video, and the video was taken in Thompson’s living room.
Subsequent interviews of three male children that had been in Thompson’s care in 2019 revealed that Thompson had molested two of the children, exposed himself to two of the children, exposed children to CSAM, spoken to the children about sex and masturbation, and had encouraged the children to play a “game” wherein the children were required to take off their clothes and run around Thompson’s house. It was while the children (7, 8, and 10 years old at the time) were playing the “game” that Thompson produced CSAM. A review of Thompson’s iPad further revealed that he had been searching the dark web for CSAM at the time the FBI knocked on his door with the search warrant.
Thompson traveled to the Bahamas on a work trip from July 6-14, 2019. The next day, on July 15, 2019, Thompson registered as a sex offender and failed to report this travel as required by the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). The same day, Thompson also received CSAM via the dark web.
On July 27, 2019, Thompson fled to the Philippines – once again failing to report his travel. Thompson’s passport was revoked, and he was deported from the Philippines on January 31, 2020. He was arrested by the FBI upon arrival in the United States and later ordered detained pending trial.
The evidence presented at trial also proved that certain assets the United States is forfeiting from the defendant, specifically, a Smith & Wesson firearm, an iPhone 7, an iPad, two laptop computers, and a custom-built desktop computer, were used in the offenses.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Marshals Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Laura Cofer Taylor, Brenna Falzetta, and Adam Duso. The asset forfeiture is being handled by Assistant United States Attorneys Mai Tran and Jennifer Harrington.
This case was 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. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.