CLEVELAND — A Berea man who pretended to be a teenage girl to get underage boys to send him sexually explicit photos of themselves will spend the next three and a half decades behind bars.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Cody Swinnerton, 25, previously pleaded guilty to seven counts of sexual exploitation of children and one count each of receipt and possession of child pornography. He was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
Authorities say that in 2013, Swinnerton filmed himself sexually assaulting a child. Following that incident, he attended children's athletic events and photographed them playing.
One such event was the Little League World Series held in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania, where he took pictures of preteen boys. He later contacted them on social media while pretending to be a teenage girl to entice the children to send him sexually explicit images they took of themselves.
Another one of the victims was a teen living in New York. The attorney's office states that Swinnerton moved to New York and befriended the family to get inside their home and sexually assault the teen on more than one occasion.
Authorities say Swinnerton had a job with the Cleveland Cavaliers and used team memorabilia to entice his victims to communicate with him. A Cavaliers representative confirmed Swinnerton worked there part-time seasonally as a game-day attendant from October 2015 until he voluntarily resigned in December 2017 without stating a reason.
During an investigation into his illicit activities, authorities discovered that Swinnerton used multiple Instagram and Facebook accounts to target juveniles between 12 and 15 years old.
Investigators found potential victims across Ohio, Tennessee, Iowa and Texas. Additionally, authorities said they found more potential victims overseas in Australia, Austria and France.
An Internet Crimes Against Children's task force executed a search warrant on Jan. 25 at Swinnerton's home. Investigators found numerous sexually explicit images of preteen and teenage boys.
The attorney's office states that Swinnerton was vacationing in Australia with a victim and their family when he learned of the search warrant, but then later filmed sexually explicit videos of the child.
After serving his prison term, Swinnerton will be placed on court-supervised parole for 25 years.