FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A University of Arkansas graduate student has been arrested and charged with multiple sex crimes after allegedly arranging a meeting with a nine-year-old boy in New York City.

Efrem Zelony-Mindell, 35, of Fayetteville, was arrested in New York on December 16 on charges of attempted enticement of a minor and possession and distribution of child pornography, according to court documents. Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Michael J. Driscoll, the Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, made the announcement.

 “Zelony-Mindell allegedly attempted to engage in sexual activity with a nine-year-old boy,” said Williams. “The protection of children from predation remains of critical importance to this Office, and we will continue to use our resources and work with our law enforcement partners to bring offenders to justice.”

As alleged, Mr. Zelony-Mindell’s actions are nearly unfathomable.  Through a series of conversations with undercover FBI agents conducted on encrypted messaging platforms, he stated his desire to have sex with minor children, and he ultimately met with one of the agents who he believed would provide him an opportunity to do so. 

Today’s action should serve as a reminder to anyone who seeks to prey on children – the FBI Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Task Force and our law enforcement partners will continue to aggressively pursue you and hold you accountable.

Michael J. Driscoll, FBI Assistant Director

According to court documents, Zelony-Mindell initiated a series of conversations with an undercover FBI Special Agent on an encrypted messaging service on or about April 29. During these exchanges, he allegedly “repeatedly expressed, in graphic and unambiguous terms, his desire to engage in sexual activity with minor children and sent [the agent] numerous images and videos containing child pornography.”

On or about May 9, the undercover agent sent the suspect the username of another undercover investigator posing as the father of a nine-year-old boy. Zelony-Mindell contacted the second special agent the next day and reportedly “made clear that he was interested in having sex with the nine-year-old child,” according to the Department of Justice.

The undercover special agent arranged a meeting with Zelony-Mindell in lower Manhattan on the morning of December 16. The suspect was arrested and taken into custody.

The enticement charge against the suspect carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison, while the distribution of child pornography charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and the possession of child pornography charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI, and, in particular, the members of the Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Task Force. The prosecution of this case is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Unit, with assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa Daniels in charge of the prosecution.

A spokesperson at the University of Arkansas confirmed that Zelony-Mitchell was an MFA student in Fayetteville during the fall semester that just concluded. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website, Zelony-Mindell was booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.