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  1. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)
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  3. Former Teacher’s Aide Receives More Than 15 Years in Prison for Enticing Minors

Former Teacher’s Aide Receives More Than 15 Years in Prison for Enticing Minors to Engage in Sexual Conduct

Release Date: May 7, 2024

LEXINGTON, Ky. — A Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Lexington investigation has led to the sentencing of a former teacher’s aide for using the internet to attempt to entice a minor to engage in sexual conduct.

Ellen Phillips, 38, of Danville, formerly known as Ellen Shell, was sentenced April 26 to 188 months in prison by Chief U.S. District Judge Danny Reeves.

“The importance of the collaborative efforts in which HSI and our law enforcement partners work to rescue victims and investigate crimes of exploitation cannot be overstated,” said HSI Nashville Special Agent in Charge Rana Saoud. “Every day, we entrust our nation’s children into the care of education professionals. HSI remains firmly committed to ensuring those who violate that trust are brought to justice.”

Phillips, who was employed as a teacher’s aide at the time of her offenses, was conducting sexual relationships with numerous teenage boys in the Boyle and Garrard County areas. Phillips communicated with the victims via Snapchat, Facebook or text messaging, and in many instances, she met them for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity. According to Phillips’ plea, she engaged in sexual activity with multiple minors at the same time.

In her plea agreement, Phillips specifically admitted that on Dec. 20, 2022, she attempted to entice a 15-year-old minor to engage in sexual activity. In this conversation, Phillips messaged the victim using Facebook and repeatedly attempted to get the victim to sneak out of his house for sexual activity. When the victim said he could not leave, Phillips offered alcohol and oral sex to the minor and offered excuses the victim could tell his mother as to why he needed to leave his home.

Under federal law, Phillips must serve 85% of her prison sentence. Upon her release from prison, she will be under U.S. Probation Office supervision for life.

Saoud and the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky Carlton S. Shier IV, Kentucky State Police Commissioner Phillip J. Burnett, Garrard County Sheriff Willie Skeens and Danville Police Chief Tony Gray announced the sentence together.

The investigation was conducted by HSI, the Kentucky State Police, the Garrard County Sheriff’s Office and the Danville Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Erin Roth is prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.

The U.S. attorney’s office prosecuted this case as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by U.S. attorneys' offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the internet as well as to identify and rescue victims.

Last Updated: 05/07/2024
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