SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A former Cassville High School teacher has been sentenced to 30 years in prison without parole for a sextortion scheme involving several victims under the age of 18.
Brandon Lane McCullough, 31 years old, of Branson, will also have to spend the rest of his life on supervised release following his prison sentence and pay $204,199 to one of his victims.
McCullough was found guilty of pretending to be a teenager online to entice victims to send pornographic images and videos.
The investigation began in 2020 when a mother told police that her 14-year-old daughter had been using the Kik app to have sexually explicit conversations with the high school business teacher, Brandon McCullough.
McCullough posed as a 15-year-old boy and told the 14-year-old victim that unless she continued to send him sexually explicit content, he would send the photos and videos to her family.
The victim was also involved in an online conversation with someone she thought was a 17-year-old boy who, when she said she was being blackmailed, told her to continue doing as she was told.
The “17-year-old” was also McCullough posing as another teenage boy.
Law enforcement officers executed a search warrant on McCullough’s home on May 7, 2020 and discovered an external hard drive that was hidden under a basket under a bathroom sink in the basement.
Investigators were able to identify 10 other victims, and said dozens of other victims were not able to be identified.
The hard drive contained Dozens of Kik chats and thousands of images and videos of child pornography, some produced by victims younger than the 14-year-old.
Authorities said McCullough had a similar pattern with his victims. They said he would extort the minors to produce sexually explicit images and videos and promise that he would delete all the images once the new ones were sent.
When the new images and videos were sent, he would start the cycle again. He began this as early as 2018.
McCullough pleaded guilty to three counts of the sexual exploitation of a minor and two counts of coercing and enticing a minor to engage in illicit sexual activity on August 4, 2021.
“Today’s sentencing is reflective of just how despicable and damaging McCullough’s crimes against children are and emphasizes HSI’s dedication to hold perpetrators accountable,” said HSI Special Agent in Charge of the Kansas City area of operations Katherine Greer. “We, alongside our law enforcement partners, are committed to the eradication of sextortion from our communities, but we need the public’s help. HSI asks parents, guardians, teachers, caregivers – anyone who interacts with a child – to be on the lookout for, and report, suspicious online behavior to the proper authorities, regardless of whether the individual is in a position of public trust, like McCullough.”
“This defendant, a high school teacher, pretended to be a teenager online in order to prey upon young victims across the country,” said U.S. Attorney Teresa Moore. “He victimized 11 children who have been identified, and many more who have not yet been identified, in a horrific sexploitation scheme. He enticed countless child victims to send him explicit images of themselves, then threatened to share those images with their families and friends over social media unless they continued to send him even more explicit images and videos. Such appalling criminal behavior warrants the severe penalty he received today.”