Former Ozark, Mo. resident arrested in St. Louis after sending obscene material to detective posing as minor

James W. Rankin mug. Courtesy: Missouri Department of Corrections
James W. Rankin mug. Courtesy: Missouri Department of Corrections(KY3)
Published: Jan. 14, 2023 at 11:24 AM CST
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KY3) - A registered sex offender was arrested by the FBI in St. Louis Friday and charged with transferring obscene material to a minor.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Missouri says 46-year-old James Wessley Rankin, who used to live in Ozark, started a conversation with an undercover detective on an anonymous chat site. The detective from the San Bernandino Sheriff’s Department in California was posing as a 14-year-old girl on the site.

According to a press release, Rankin used the screen name “Lonely Nerd” and started talking to the undercover detective. Authorities say Rankin sent the detective an obscene picture and began planning to pick her up from her home.

Rankin became a registered sex offender in Missouri after he was found guilty of statutory rape in Greene County in 2021. Rankin was sentenced to five years in prison.

Investigators say he sexually abused a girl when she was 12 years old while they lived in Christian County. The victim told authorities Rankin later took her to his workplace, where he raped her. The victim told investigators she did not immediately disclose the abuse because she felt guilty and ashamed for what happened.

He was also found guilty of endangering the welfare of a child and domestic assault in Christian County in 2019 and was sentenced to probation and shock incarceration time.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Missouri, at the time of the arrest in St. Louis, Rankin was living at a locked transition house in St. Louis that allowed him passes to go to work during the day.

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