Mother’s tip to Sonora police leads to sentencing of Oregon man in online sex case

David E. Otto
David E. Otto Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Department

An Oregon man was sentenced Wednesday in an online sexual exploitation case that started with a mother’s tip to Sonora police.

David Earnest Otto, 50, of Tigard got 15 years in federal prison. He was accused of grooming and sexually exploiting seven girls via social media.

The case began in November 2016, when the mother reported to the Sonora Police Department that an unknown man had exchanged sexually explicit messages with her 14-year-old daughter on Instagram.

Officer Scott Mallon spent several weeks on the case and eventually tracked an Internet Protocol address to Otto, an arrest affidavit said. Mallon suspected that girls in other states were being targeted, so the FBI took over the case, the document said.

Federal agents arrested Otto at his home in January 2017. He pleaded guilty in February 2018 to one count of producing child pornography.

“I didn’t realize I was causing that much damage,’‘ Otto told the judge, according to the Oregonian newspaper. “If the girls were here, I’d apologize to them.”

The mother did the right thing by reporting the messages, Sonora Police Chief Turu VanderWeil said by phone Thursday. He urged other parents to watch for hints, such as odd nicknames from a message sender, that could indicate an online predator.

“Don’t be afraid to get involved in your child’s social media activities,” VanderWeil said.

U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown imposed the sentence in Portland. It includes supervised release for the rest of Otto’s life. It was not clear Thursday why the sentencing was delayed.