ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WSPA) – A Weaverville man received a 17-year prison sentence Tuesday on child coercion and enticement charges, Jill Westmoreland Rose, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, said in a statement.
Benjamin Ernest Johnson, 39, was also ordered to serve a lifetime of supervised release and register as a sex offender after his prison release.
Johnson pleaded guilty in May 2016 to coercion and enticement of a minor.
“Johnson was a wolf among sheep, a predator who took advantage of his access to high school students and used his position of trust to sexually exploit impressionable young victims. His conduct is not only a disgrace to all military personnel, it is also criminal. And for that, he will deservedly serve time in federal prison,” Rose said.
An FBI agent who investigated the case said in a statement that Johnson used his access as a recruiter to manipulate children for his own sexual gratification.
“No form of sexual misconduct is ever acceptable anywhere in the Department of the Navy. Ensuring the safety of our Navy applicants and members of the communities we work in is our top priority. Upon notice of the allegations of misconduct with a minor, the former service member was immediately removed from all recruiting duties and subsequently discharged from the Navy. We will continue to train our Navy recruiters on appropriate behavior when working with Navy applicants and we will continue to enforce high standards and professional conduct,” Commander Stan Dickerson, Commanding Officer Naval Recruiting District Raleigh, is quoted in the statement.