SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah, March 26, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — A West Valley City man has been arrested after he allegedly posed as a teenage girl to solicit a nude photo from a teenage boy.
A probable cause statement from the 3rd District Court of Salt Lake City said Eric Taylor Pitts, 31, of West Valley City, is facing charges of:
- 10 charges of sexual exploitation of a minor, a second-degree felony.
- Enticing a minor by Internet or text, a third-degree felony
- Dealing in materials harmful to a minor, a third-degree felony
In February 2021, the arresting officer with West Valley City Police Department was contacted by a detective with the Hurricane Police Department, the statement said. The detective said he began investigating a case in Hurricane City and after further follow up he determined the possible suspect in this case, Pitts, was living in West Valley City.
The detective had already interviewed the 13-year-old male victim in the case, and had authored a search warrant for and received records from the company TextNow Inc., a free texting and calling application that can be downloaded to mobile devices. The app generates random phone numbers, free of charge, that allow users to call and text other individuals.
The statement said that on Jan. 13, the detective had received a call from an administrator of a charter school in Hurricane. That person reported that the male victim had been showing classmates a nude photograph of a female on his cell phone.
The detective responded the the school to interview the victim, the statement said.
“During this interview the victim told the detective that the photograph was of his girlfriend Ashley,” the statement said. He did not know Ashley’s last name or where she lived. He stated that he and Ashley had exchanged nude photographs of themselves.
When the detective searched the victim’s phone, he noted that the photo of Ashley appeared to be a copy of another photo and the individual did not appear to be a minor. The detective stated he conducted a reverse look up of Ashley’s photograph and was able to find it on various online sources, suggesting it was not an original photograph, the statement said.
A search warrant was written and approved to obtain records from Textnow relating to the accounts Ashley and a teen boy the victim said was his friend. The records revealed a specific IP address serviced by Comcast was used to create and use both Textnow accounts. The records revealed that the IP address was registered to Pitt’s residence in West Valley City.
A search warrant was written and approved to search the suspect’s residence.
“Prior to serving the warrant Eric Pitts and another male were seen leaving the residence in Eric’s vehicle,” the statement said. “Eric was detained and an Apple iPhone was found in his possession.”
During an interview, Pitts allegedly admitted he had utilized the Textnow application to contact the victim, and had invented the persona of “Ashley” as well as the 14-year-old male friend of the victim. Pitts stated that during the conversation when he was posing as “Ashley” he sent the victim images of a female that he had found online, the statement said. Pitts stated he had also asked for a nude picture of the victim and received an image of him.
“Eric admitted that he has been using the internet to look at naked images of children for a long time and feels like he has a problem,” the statement said. “Eric admitted that what he did with the victim was wrong and he regrets doing it.”
A search of Pitts’ phone yielded at least 10 photographs of children aged approximately 10 and under, undressed.
Pitts was transported to Salt Lake County Jail with his bail set at $50,050.