A federal court in Florida sentenced former NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Rick Crawford, found guilty of attempting to pay an undercover cop for sex with a fictitious 12-year-old girl earlier this year, to nearly 11 years in prison this week. The minimum penalty he faced going into it was 10 years.
The United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida sentenced Crawford Monday, after he was apprehended by federal agents on Feb. 28 upon meeting an undercover investigator to pay for sex with a made-up 12-year-old girl in the back of a van. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida said a federal jury found Crawford guilty of attempted enticement of a minor in August, despite Crawford pleading not guilty on March 9.
Crawford, 60, faced between 10 years and life after he was found guilty, and got just over the minimum penalty on Monday: 10 years and eight months. Court documents show that Crawford was also fined $5,000 and must register as a sex offender, participate in a mental-health program for offenders, have no direct contact with children, and abide by media and computer restrictions.
The sentencing came nearly a year after Crawford first got into contact with the undercover investigator, who posted an ad online for people “looking for that dark taboo experience.” The investigator was Steven McElyea, who was working with the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office in Florida and posed as the father of a pretend 12-year-old daughter he posted sex ads about online.
McElyea said in the complaint against Crawford upon his arrest that he posted the ad on Feb. 10, and got a response from a person later identified as Crawford saying “Let’s do it” that same day. The complaint said the two talked for about two and a half weeks before meeting, and that they agreed Crawford would pay between $50 and $75 for “oral both ways and just straight sex” with the girl while the father watched. McElyea also said in the complaint that he asked if Crawford had done this before, and that Crawford said, “Paid for it. Yes.”
Crawford denied being there to meet anyone underage in an interview after he was apprehended, according to the complaint, saying his conversations with McElyea indicated the daughter was 12 years old but that he found it hard to believe. Crawford wouldn’t have gone through with it if she were 12, he said.
McElyea, however, said in the complaint that Crawford asked for photos of the fictitious daughter before meeting and that he sent photos of a coworker when she was 12. The two met in a restaurant parking lot in the afternoon, McElyea said, during what he told Crawford was his daughter’s school day.
Agents found Crawford’s cellphone after apprehending him, along with other evidence on him and in his truck, according to the Middle District of Florida Attorney’s Office news release from August:
On February 28, 2018, when Crawford arrived at the agreed location to have sex with the girl, he was arrested by federal agents. During a search of Crawford, agents found that he was carrying $80 and had a condom in his pants pocket. The agents also searched Crawford’s truck, finding an emergency contraceptive pill, massage oil, a phallic device, a sexual performance enhancement pill, adult pornography, a DVD player, and condoms.
The phone also had the messages and emails between Crawford and McElyea, which are detailed in the criminal complaint from February below.