According to U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Rhode Island, Robert F. Eccleston, 56, of Fairhaven, MA, pleaded guilty in federal court in Providence, R.I., on Thursday to traveling in interstate commerce to engage in sexual activity with a minor.
Eccleston, a registered sex offender, admitted to the Court that on July 12, 2016, he traveled from Massachusetts to East Providence, expecting to meet with and engage in illicit sexual activity with a 15-year-old boy he had been communicating with on the Internet.
According to court documents and information presented to the Court, on July 7, 2016, Eccleston responded to an online Personals/Encounters posting and photograph of a male who claimed to be 18-years-old and single. The online posting was actually posted earlier that day by a Rhode Island State Police Detective assigned to the Rhode Island State Police Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force.
Over the next several days, an HSI agent posing as the person who placed the online posting and Eccleston engaged in a series of Internet and email communications. The communications quickly became sexual in nature. The agent, posing as the person who placed the online posting, repeatedly told Eccleston that he was only 15-years-old, adding that he lived with his mother. As the communications continued, and believing that he was actually communicating with a 15-year-old, Eccleston asked for photographs of the boy, including an explicit nude photograph.
According to court documents and information presented to the Court, at Eccleston’s urging, the two agreed to meet in East Providence on July 12, 2016, to engage in sexual activity. Rhode Island State Police, HSI agents and ICAC Task Force members arrested Eccleston in the parking lot of an East Providence shopping plaza near the location he believed he was meeting the 15-year-old boy.
According to court records, Eccleston, a registered sex offender, was ordered to register as a sex offender following his conviction of raping a teenage boy in Massachusetts in 2006. In the early 2000’s, Eccleston was a School Committee member in Sandwich Massachusetts.
Eccleston has been detained in federal custody since his arrest on July 12, 2016. He is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Court Chief Judge William E. Smith on December 15, 2017.
Interstate travel to engage in sexual activity with a minor is punishable by statutory penalties of up to 60 years in federal prison; a term of supervised release of 5 years; a fine of up to $250,000; and a mandatory special assessment of $5,000.