Court Documents: Amarillo Man Admits He Verified Victims Were Underage
Court records filed last week shed more light on an Amarillo man's recent arrest for a federal charge of child exploitation.
Benjamin Jacob Short was arrested by agents with HSI and Amarillo Police Department on July 19 and booked into Randall County Jail. Short was formerly employed as a paraprofessional at River Road High School but had voluntarily resigned at the end of the 2022-2023 school year, according to a release from Superintendent Richard Kelley.
Documents obtained from the Northern District of Texas Amarillo division identified Short as the suspect of a criminal investigation regarding his conduct with minors on the platform Meet24. This investigation stems from a joint undercover internet chat operation initiated by HSI and United States Secret Service (USSS) in February.
In the complaint, Short initiated contact with a USSS undercover (UC) posing as a 14-year-old female on Meet24. The messages, sent from an account with the username "JACE" complimented their profile picture and asked if the listed age was correct.
Once UC confirmed that she was a 14-year-old female, subsequent messages involved questions about the UC's breast size and contained an explicit photo of himself.
The chat continued over the next several days and consisted of numerous sexually explicit messages and images sent by JACE to the assumed 14-year-old female.
Investigators with the operation were able to trace the user of the account to a residence in the 1700-block of SE 34th and identify him as Benjamin Jacob Short.
A federal warrant was served on July 19 by HSI and Amarillo Police Department. Short was apprehended at the residence and numerous electronic devices were seized, including his cell phone.
Short admitted to investigators that he was the individual utilizing the Meet24 account 'JACE'. He further admitted to using the account to contact minors and engage them in explicit conversation with a goal of enticing them to produce and send him explicit images of themselves.
The court document also notes that Short told investigators that his cellular phone would contain an estimated "thousands" of explicit images. A preliminary examination of the phone revealed this to be a truthful estimate.
Short is charged with committing a violation of 18 U.S. Code § 2252A - Certain activities relating to material constituting or containing child pornography. He remains in Randall County Jail on a federal hold pending further action by the court.