Fresno, California - Nicholas Carroll Watkins, 30, of Valley Springs, was sentenced Monday by Chief U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill to 25 years in prison, followed by 10 years of supervised release for receiving material involving the sexual exploitation of minors, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.  Watkins will also be required to register as a sex offender.

According to a criminal complaint and sentencing documents, Watkins used Kik Messenger and SayHi, which are messaging applications based outside the United States, to engage in sexually explicit communications with other adults as well as numerous minor females. Watkins discussed his sexual interest in children and often solicited and received sexually explicit images directly from minors.

This case was the result of an investigation by the Miami, Florida and Stockton, California offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney David Gappa prosecuted the case.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute those who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims.