was a Mormon church member and former youth leader in Utah; was caught downloading child sexual abuse material (CSAM); admitted to soliciting sex acts from trafficked women at Asian massage parlors; pleaded guilty in March 2023 to two second degree felony charges of child sexual exploitation; sentenced in August 2023 to 250 days in jail, with credit for 79 days served; placed on 4 years probation

Case Summary

Erick Mosteller was a Mormon church member in Utah. He served a full-time LDS mission and was married in a temple.

In March 2023, Mosteller pleaded guilty after reaching a plea agreement that reduced the number of felony charges from 10 down to two. He was convicted of child sexual exploitation.

Mosteller allegedly attempted to pass himself off as a vigilante inspired by fellow Mormon Tim Ballard and Operation Underground Railroad. The prosecution accused Mosteller of breaching his plea agreement via a “campaign of misinformation” which included having several supporters write letters to the judge explaining that Mosteller only encountered child pornography while doing research to help him fight child trafficking.

FLOODLIT.org has obtained copies of those letters of support, thanks to your donations. Excerpts from some of them are included below.

In August 2023, Mosteller was sentenced to 250 days in jail, with credit for 79 days previously served, and placed on probation for 4 years.

In a letter to the judge, a relative of Mosteller stated that Mosteller had attended “Tim Ballard’s premier about child trafficking” and was excited to learn about the topic, but that his research had inadvertently exposed him to child sexual abuse material (CSAM), commonly referred to as “child pornography” or CP.

According to a statement filed by the state of Utah in May 2023 regarding an alleged breach by Mosteller of his plea agreement, The FBI interviewed Mosteller at his home in 2022. Mosteller lied to the FBI at first, denying that he had viewed pornography at all, the statement said. After the FBI found CSAM on Mosteller’s computer, he admitted to going to Asian massage parlors to solicit sexual favors from the women being trafficked there, according to the statement.

The statement continued: “At no point during the two-hour interview did Mr. Mosteller claim that he was doing legitimate research into human trafficking and accidentally stumbled upon CSAM during the process, indeed, Mr. Mosteller admitted that he had intentionally sought out and downloaded CSAM but that he tried to delete all of it. […] Mr. Mosteller was shown how the forensic tool allowed the investigator to confirm that Mr. Mosteller had not only downloaded CSAM but had opened the files and viewed the videos depicting children being sexually abused. When confronted with evidence that Mr. Mosteller had opened a significant number of CSAM videos on a certain day, Mr. Mosteller responded, ‘that must have been a bad day for me.'”

According to the statement, Mosteller began using CSAM as far back as 2002.

Also according to the statement, Mosteller told a psychosexual evaluator that “he was involved with Operation Underground Railroad, an organization created to fight child sex slavery and human trafficking. […] Mosteller claimed that he was acting independently as some sort of ‘vigilante,’ attempting to identify people on the dark web by going to chat rooms, downloading zip files, and attempting to identify the ‘perpetrators’ he was communicating with on the dark web.”

The evaluator concluded that Mosteller was the victim of a conspiracy between the state of Utah, the FBI, and Mosteller’s wife, according to the statement.

The statement went on to say: “Mr. Mosteller materially breached this [plea] agreement in two regards. First, Mr. Mosteller sought a lesser sentence than he had agreed to in his plea agreement both directly through his own letter, and through a campaign of misinformation regarding the nature and circumstances of his offense and by submitting a litany of letters from acquaintances specifically asking for a lesser sentence. Mr. Mosteller’s clear intent was to influence the Court to sentence him to something less than the agreed upon sentencing recommendation.

“Second, Mr. Mosteller pleaded guilty, then began disclaiming culpability not only to family (which would not be inconsequential), but more concerningly to the Court and to his treatment provider. Mr. Mosteller’s claims are objectively inconsistent with the digital evidence and with Mr. Mosteller’s own admissions previously made. This undermines the agreement because it denies the State of the main benefit of the sentencing recommendation, which is effective treatment for Mr. Mosteller’s criminal behavior to prevent future recurrences. Good faith requires complete honesty with the treatment provider and Mr. Mosteller has not been dealing with the State, the Court, or the treatment provider in good faith.”

Excerpt from a memo from the state of Utah regarding Mosteller’s alleged breach of his plea deal:

“The objective computer evidence and the admissions of the Defendant during his police interview show that the Defendant has been viewing child sex abuse material (child pornography) since 2002. Mr. Mosteller admitted that he would use the ‘dark web’ to access a message board, from which he would download child sex abuse material. He would download the material, transfer it to a thumb drive, view the material, and then try to delete it. However, every few months he would be “triggered” and would again seek out child sex abuse material.”

Excerpt from a statement by an FBI investigator dated 2022-02-01:

“Erick [Mosteller] indicated he did not have any information concerning groups providing escorts, or prostitutes locally in Salt Lake City. In regard to massage parlors, Erick advised that he occasionally visited massage parlors along State Street in Salt Lake City. Erick typically visits a massage parlor directly south of the [redacted by FLOODLIT.org] restaurant, [redacted by FLOODLIT.org], Salt Lake City, Utah. Erick most recently visited that massage parlor the day prior to the interview and received a massage and a hand job.

“Erick denied ever looking at pornography, denied visiting prostitutes or escorts, and only admitted to traveling to massage parlors on occasion for massages and hand jobs. Erick indicated that it was a walk-in business only and that he only pays in cash. Erick denied communicating with the massage providers over any app and indicated that the women working in the massage parlors he visits have all been adult women. Erick sometimes views escorts on the website [redacted by FLOODLIT.org].com.

“Erick indicated that he had viewed pornography in the past but had not looked at in a long time. Erick admitted to viewing pornography by visiting the website Xhamster. Erick also admitted to seeing child pornography previously on Xhamster.”

[…]

“Erick denied that he had any sexual interest in children and provided verbal consent for officers to conduct a search of his computer to verify that he was not looking at sexually explicit images of children. Erick then brought officers down to his basement office area where there were two desktop computers operating. Erick entered the password to one of the computers, a Dell Vostro tower and provided access to the computer.

“This writer used the program [redacted by FLOODLIT.org] to review the [redacted by FLOODLIT.org] artifacts within the Windows operating system and quickly located several [redacted by FLOODLIT.org] artifacts indicative of the sexual abuse of children. Some of these artifacts are listed below [redacted by FLOODLIT.org]

“Erick was confronted with the artifacts that were indicative of his use of the computer to view sexually explicit images and videos of children. Erick admitted to viewing sexually explicit images of children previously and admitted to deleting all of the images and videos because he was disgusted with himself. Erick admitted the last time he observed sexually explicit images of children on his computer was approximately 3 months ago. Erick indicated that the drive he stored the child sexual abuse material (CSAM) had been deleted and thrown away. Later, Erick indicated that the drive where he stored CSAM might be one of the USB drives connected to his computer.

“Erick provided consent for the search of this computer to continue, and this writer used the program [redacted by FLOODLIT.org] to review the computer for evidence of Erick using the computer to view CSAM. Erick believed that he had previously deleted any images in his possession, as well as deleting any images he had previously stored on removable media.

“Upon being confronted with what was located on his computer, Erick was informed that he was not under arrest and would not be arrested after the conclusion of the interview.

“Erick initially indicated that he had only viewed sexually explicit images of children on 2 or 3 occasions over the past year and a half. Erick initially advised that he had obtained the images and videos via the website xhamster, or a file sharing program. Erick could not recall the name of the file sharing program. Erick admitted to going through a period of time where he would view CSAM, but eventually deleted it out of disgust. During this time, Erick would access these sites via a message board titled [redacted by FLOODLIT.org] via the TOR browser where individuals posted CSAM. In order to access the message board, one had to have a registered screen name. Erick could not recall any of the screen names he had previously used.

“Artifacts consistent with the sexual exploitation of children were located, to include recent files opened with names associated with the sexual exploitation of children (i.e. [redacted by FLOODLIT.org].webm). A screen capture of recently opened files was taken and saved for inclusion in the final [redacted by FLOODLIT.org] report. A screen capture of the Files of Interest screen was also taken to reflect files with names synonymous with the sexual abuse of children. An initial review of images stored on the computer located images which appeared to be minor females (age difficult) engaged in sexual activity. The program stopped working and the search was repeated. Multiple evidence artifacts were located which were evident of Erick opening and viewing CSAM, specifically in the [redacted by FLOODLIT.org] files and [redacted by FLOODLIT.org] files.

“Erick denied that he ever acted out sexually with a child.

“During the interview, Erick inquired as to the availability of therapy for individuals involved in the sexual exploitation of children. Erick was provided via email a list of preferred sex offender therapy providers through the Utah Department of Corrections.

“Erick provided consent for the “Station 7” tower in his basement to be searched. Nothing of interest was located on that tower. A 16 GB San Disk Cruzer USB drive attached to the Station 7 tower was seized.

“Erick’s Dell Vostro computer and three 16 GB San Disk Cruzer USB drives (one attached to the Station 7 tower, and two attached to the Dell Vostro were seized).

[…]

“Erick was informed that his computer and the 3 USB drives were going to be seized. Erick asked that some of his business documents on the Dell Vostro be backed up to his Station 7 tower. This writer reviewed files that Erick wished to backup and copied them over to the Station 7 tower using a USB drive belonging to this writer as Erick did not have any unopened USB drives. Files backed up to Erick’s other computer are also burned to disc and maintained in a 1a of this file.

“Erick was asked if he would provide written consent for the Dell Vostro and 3 USB drives to be forensically examined at the Regional Computer Forensics Lab. Erick initially indicated that he would provide written consent, but then decided against it and advised that law enforcement should seek a warrant for the computer and digital media to be searched.”

Excerpts from letters of support for Mosteller to the judge:

“I have sat in a dark tent on a pioneer trek in the middle of a cold Wyoming night with Erick and listened to him bare his soul with tears. I’ve heard him pray and speak from the heart about his faith and the most important things in his life. I have been with Erick when he is as his most vulnerable. I have seen this man in good times and bad. This is a good and decent man, with a big heart that loves his family and the Lord.” – a friend of Mosteller

“Erick has even shared with me that he was a religious instructor to the youth in his church, as was I. This kind of individual must be a patient and loving person to serve in this capacity.” – a colleague of Mosteller

“He had good intentions, and is now paying dearly for that decision even to look into it.” – a colleague of Mosteller

“Erick is a committed member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He understands being principled and wants to show his true character. I don’t think you could assemble a list long enough to show his acts of service to his neighbors, church-members and extended family.” – a relative of Mosteller

“Erick was naive about the world and its evils, and even to some degree, regarding those who were supposed to be his closest loved-ones. That ended up causing him to be in this horrible situation. […] He said even the filmmakers involved with Tim Ballard felt they weren’t helping and spoke to Erick to see if he had alternate solutions. He told them he did not, and that he was going to distance himself from all of it, and he did.” – a relative of Mosteller

Other sources
  1. view source details | Utah 3rd District Court - Case Number 221910578 - -
Other sources excerpts
  1. Utah 3rd District Court - Case Number 221910578 - -
Other sources excerpts
  • Utah 3rd District Court - Case Number 221910578
    Source familiar with the case

Mormon Sexual Abuse Map

International map of locations where active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints perpetrated or allegedly perpetrated sexual abuse or other sex crimes, or where LDS leaders failed or allegedly failed to help abuse survivors.