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Jacksonville man pleads guilty to trying to lure 12-year-old for sex over internet

Over the course of several days in February 2020, Epps and an undercover agent spoke online, with Epps expressing his desire to meet the 12-year-old "child" for sex.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — A Jacksonville man faces a minimum of 10 years and up to life in prison for trying to lure who he thought was a 12-year-old child for sex over the internet.

According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office, 36-year-old Wayne Dale Epps Jr. pleaded guilty to using the internet to attempt to entice a 12-year-old child to engage in sexual activity in 2020.

An undercover FBI agent who was posing online as the family member of a 12-year-old child was contacted by Epps online on Feb. 14, 2020, according to court documents referenced in the release. The same undercover agent had engaged in conversation with Epps online in October 2019, the release says.

Over the course of several days, Epps and the agent spoke online, with Epps expressing his desire to meet the 12-year-old "child" for sex, stating "(t)his is a first for me I'm nervous but I've been wanting to try younger," according to the release. Epps described in graphic detail the sexual acts he wanted to perform and offered to use a "flavored condom," the release says.

Epps also requested pictures of the "child," according to the release. 

On Feb. 18, 2020, Epps drove to a prearranged location at a Jacksonville shopping center to meet who he thought was the child for sex, and was instead arrested by FBI agents, the release says. When he was interviewed by law enforcement, Epps said that it was "possible that (he) would have followed through" with having sex with the 12-year-old child, and that he "should have never made that decision," according to the release.

Epps faces a mandatory minimum federal prison sentence of 10 years, and up to life, with a potential life term of supervised release. His sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled, the release says.

The case was investigated as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. For more information about Project Safe childhood, click here.