Child abuse images get Pine City man 29-year sentence

Federal courthouse in Minneapolis
The federal courthouse in downtown Minneapolis.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

A Pine City man will spend up to 29 years in federal prison for soliciting hundreds of sexually explicit images from child victims.

In court documents, Assistant U.S. Attorney Hillary Taylor wrote that Caleb Vincent McLaughlin, 27, lied about his age and used multiple social media platforms to contact hundreds of girls between the ages of 11 and 17 and “used this scheme to successfully groom and rape minor victims for years.”

Taylor wrote that this was “by far, one of the worst online and hands-on child exploitation cases this district has seen in recent history.”

McLaughlin pleaded guilty in October to producing, receiving, and distributing child pornography and coercion and enticement of a minor. Investigators identified more than two dozen victims and are tracking down others from the more than 200 McLaughlin solicited between 2019 and mid-2023.

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In 2020, McLaughlin, using the name “Jake Benson” went to the home of a 14-year-old girl who has developmental and cognitive delays and sexually assaulted her while her father was at work.

Authorities also said McLaughlin, who worked as a mobile auto mechanic, bragged about raping 11 and 12-year-old girls and kept a “predator kit” in his truck that he stocked with flavored alcohol.

McLaughlin “systematically broke down minor victims’ boundaries almost with a sense of pride in how persuasive he could be,” Taylor wrote in her request for a 35-year prison sentence.

Several girls told investigators that they suffered internal injuries from McLaughlin’s assaults. One victim required treatment for a urinary tract infection, and another was treated for vaginal tearing.

Taylor wrote that McLaughlin took pleasure in inflicting violence against his victims by slapping and grabbing them and pulling their hair. Several victims told investigators that McLaughlin “could not even be bothered to wash his hands dirty from work.”

The FBI found thousands of child abuse images on McLaughlin’s phone and Snapchat accounts including one he made while violently sexually assaulting another 14-year-old girl.

Judge Patrick Schiltz said the sentence is one of the longest he’d ever imposed. Schiltz also ordered that McLaughlin spend 12 years on supervised release.