CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A Nicholas County man pleaded guilty today to a federal sex crime involving a minor, announced United States Attorney Carol Casto. John Marshall Underwood, Jr., 44, of Gilboa, entered his guilty plea to attempted enticement of a minor to engage in sexual activity.
Underwood admitted that from December 14, 2016, through February 1, 2017, he used a cell phone to communicate with a woman he believed to be a prostitute who had custody of two minor nieces. The woman Underwood thought was a prostitute was actually an undercover law enforcement officer. Underwood also admitted that he communicated with the woman about engaging in commercial sexual activity with one of the nieces. On at least two occasions, Underwood communicated with an individual he believed to be the niece and attempted to entice her to engage in commercial sexual activity. The individual Underwood thought was the niece was also an undercover law enforcement officer. Underwood admitted that on February 1, 2017, he arranged a meeting with the individuals who were actually undercover officers and was arrested after he arrived at the meeting location. Law enforcement recorded all the calls between Underwood and the undercover officers.
Underwood faces at least 10 years and up to life in federal prison. Underwood will also be required to register as a sex offender. Sentencing is scheduled for September 20, 2017.
The investigation was conducted by the Charleston Police Department, the West Virginia State Police, and Homeland Security Investigations. Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer Rada Herrald is in charge of the prosecution. The plea hearing was held before United States District Judge John T. Copenhaver, Jr.
This prosecution is being brought as part of an ongoing initiative of the United States Attorney’s Office to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse in the Southern District of West Virginia.