WARWICK, R.I — A Canterbury man is in police custody after he allegedly tried to solicit a teen for sex.
Christopher Merchant, a Plainfield little league coach, was arrested on January 25 in Warwick, Rhode Island.
Rhode Island State police said that Merchant,33, allegedly used the internet to solicit a 14 year-old boy to engage in sexual activity at a hotel.
The arrest stemmed from an investigation by members of the Rhode Island Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force. During January 2019, Mr. Merchant was identified by police.
Merchant engaged in a series of communications with a person he believed to be a 14-year-old boy. The conversation quickly became sexually explicit and he allegedly showed inappropriate material and solicited a person whom he believed to be a 14-year-old boy to engage in sexual activity at a Warwick hotel.
According to court documents, Merchant had the following exchange with an undercover detective:
Merchant: You’re not a cop, right?
Detective: Lol, no, r u?
Detective: Y do ppl keep asking me that??
Merchant: Cuz you’re underage lol
“On several different dates, the defendant sent a person he believed to be a 14-year-old boy sexually graphic images and videos of himself,” said Detective Joseph Lavallee of the Newport, RI Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
Police said that during the arrest, they found child pornography on Merchant’s cell phone.
Merchant was charged with two counts of indecent solicitation of a child, three counts of electronically disseminating indecent material to a minor and possession of child pornography. He was held on bond and is scheduled to be in Rhode Island district court on January 28.
Police said that Merchant is a vice president and coach with the Plainfield Little League in Plainfield. At this time, there is no evidence of any involvement with members of the Plainfield Little League.
“Christopher Merchant has been suspended immediately from all activity from Plainfield/Moosup Little League pending the outcome of the criminal investigation. The league will continue to cooperate fully with law enforcement officials on this matter. As this issue is under investigation, the league has no further comment,” said Little League International in a statement.
The Rhode Island ICAC Task Force actively engages in investigative efforts to identify subjects involved in child exploitation-related activities.
The Rhode Island ICAC Task Force Program is administered by the Rhode Island State Police and supports a national network of multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional task forces engaged in investigations, forensic examinations, and prosecutions related to Internet crimes against children and technology-facilitated child sexual exploitation.