Florida man who sexually exploited Joplin teen draws 15-year prison term

Mar. 19—A federal judge sentenced a Florida man — who used the social media platform Snapchat to meet and transport a 14-year-old Joplin girl to Tennessee for sex — to 15 years and five months in prison.

Christopher D. Bruey, 32, of Fort Myers, Florida, who pleaded guilty in June of last year to a charge of transportation with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, received the sentence at a hearing Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee.

Federal court Judge Thomas Varlan ordered that Bruey remain on supervised release for the remainder of his life once he finishes serving the prison term. The defendant also must complete 500 hours of substance abuse treatment through a Bureau of Prisons program and submit to mental and physical health evaluations and any recommended treatment.

The conviction carried a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years or up to life without parole and a $250,000 fine. No fine was levied in Bruey's case, but he was ordered to pay $310 in restitution in addition to court costs.

Joplin police were notified by the girl's parents Jan. 27, 2023, that she was missing. Investigators were able to access her Snapchat account when a family member guessed her password, and that led to the discovery that she had exchanged messages with someone interested in coming to Joplin to pick her up and take her away to get married.

Her Snapchat suitor was identified as Bruey, and a check of license plate reader data revealed that his pickup truck had been spotted in the Knoxville, Tennessee, area following the girl's disappearance.

The FBI was notified at that point, and on the evening of Jan. 28, an FBI task force officer and Knoxville police patrolling an area of East Knoxville where the truck's license plate had been captured on a reader spotted the truck in the parking lot of a Value Inn off Interstate 40.

Officers took Bruey into custody as he emerged from a room at the motel in which the girl was found, along with a number of open containers of alcohol and some marijuana, according to the plea agreement filed in the case.

Before being returned to her family in Joplin, the girl told investigators in Tennessee that she had gone to a church parking lot to meet Bruey, never having met him previously and not even knowing what he looked like. They had slept in his truck on the way to Tennessee, where they checked into the motel and engaged in sexual intercourse.

Bruey acknowledged in his plea agreement that he had been communicating with the girl through Snapchat from December 2022 through January 2023 while he was residing in northern Florida. He had told her that he was 31 years old and she had informed him that she was 14, according to the plea agreement.

Bruey acknowledged that they had discussed meeting and getting married prior to his decision to drive to Missouri and pick her up.