Thomas Crawfish Mathews was sentenced Wednesday, June 6 after pleading guilty earlier in the year to one count of attempted enticement of a minor.

MIAMI – Former Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma Business Committee vice-chair Thomas Crawfish Mathews was sentenced by District Judge Claire V. Eagan in a Tulsa federal court Wednesday, June 6 on one count of attempted enticement of a minor.

Judge Egan handed down a 10-year prison sentence to be followed by seven years of probation, according to court documents.

The minimum mandatory sentence term for the charge is 10 years in prison with a maximum statutory sentence of life and a fine not to exceed $250,000, according to court filings.

Following his imprisonment, Mathews will also be required to register as a sex offender and pay special assessments in the amount of $5,100 according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey A. Gallant one of the prosecutors in the case.

Mathews pleaded guilty to the felony count on March 6 in federal court, and with that voluntary entry, waived his right to a jury trial and was required to verbally admit in court the facts of the charge against him.

Mathews' statement in the petition to enter a guilty plea reads:

"I, Thomas Crawfish Mathews, age 35, admit that on or about August 31, 2017, in Miami, Oklahoma, in the Northern District of Oklahoma, I engaged in a conversation with a person I believed to be thirteen years of age. I used my cellular phone to communicate with the person using the Whisper app. In the communications, I knowingly discussed unlawful sexual relations with the person and proposed a related in-person meeting which is attempted enticement. I understand that the use of the cellular phone is a facility of interstate commerce."

Mathews was remanded to the custody of U.S. Marshals after his appearance in March and booked into the Okmulgee County Jail the same day.

Ahead of Wednesday's sentencing, Mathews' attorney Ryan Ray filed a sentencing memorandum March 23 requesting that Mathews be sentenced to the minimum 10-year term. The document opened with "Who is Thomas Mathews" which stated in part:

"Thomas Mathews is a married thirty-five (35) year old man who is the father of five children. Prior to the instant charges, Mr. Mathews had been a tribal leader in the Quapaw Tribe and has an extraordinary record of community service and helping others. His conduct that gave rise to this case has cost him his job, his assets, and his freedom. They will take him away from the remainder of his children’s childhood and young adult lives, and will take financial support from them for the same period."

The filing also included references to over two dozen letters of support submitted to thr court from family and community members including statements of character and community impact from his wife, his mother, and even a current and long-time area educator.

Mathews became the focus of an undercover investigation in August 2017 and was indicted in November for attempting to meet with the intention to engage in sexual activity with a female he believed was a 13-year-old, Miami 8th-grader.

He resigned from his position with the Quapaw Business Committee following the November indictment.

U.S. Attorney Trent Shores stated, “This defendant deserves every day of his 120-month sentence because of his reprehensible criminal acts. Child predators are a scourge upon society. We will protect children in northeastern Oklahoma from predators like Thomas Mathews. I commend the collaborative efforts of Homeland Security Investigations and the Miami Police Department to bring this defendant to justice.”

About the case

Federal court records unsealed Nov. 14, 2017, revealed Mathews became the focus of an undercover investigation in August of the same year when attempting to meet with the intention to engage in sexual activity with a person he believed to be a minor in Miami, Oklahoma.

According to a probable cause affidavit filed in the case, a Miami Police Department (MPD) detective undercover as a 13-year-old female living in Miami posted under the username “Angel2022" on social app Whisper.

Whisper is a free social media mobile app that allows users to post and share photos and video messages anonymously.

The undercover detective (UC) was contacted a short time later by a user known as “Big T,” later identified as Mathews by federal investigators.

The online conversation in August between Mathews as "Big T" and the detective as "Angel2022" was lengthy and sexually explicit with Mathews at one point asking the detective if he wanted to “hook up,” and making plans to meet with the UC who he believed to be a local 8th-grade female.

During the conversation, Mathews also asked the UC "can u keep a secret" and later stresses “Gotta keep it a secret.”

On Aug. 31, 2017, Mathews was then observed by MPD under surveillance arriving at two separate meeting locations arranged by “Big T” and “Angel2022″ during their Whisper chat.

MPD approached Mathews at the second location where he denied he was in the area to meet with a 13-year-old to engage in sex and allowed an iPhone in his possession to be searched.

His phone was ultimately returned, and Mathews was released from the scene.

Investigation and charge

On Nov. 2 an application submitted by a Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agent was granted and executed to obtain "All digital evidence associated to WID (unique Whisper ID) on the search warrant," for the Whisper account identified as "Big T."

Mathews was then arrested and arraigned on Nov. 14 in Tulsa in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, according to an indictment of the grand jury charge filed on Nov. 6 by Gallant.

A Dec. 14 affidavit states a search granted for Mathews’ Whisper account for chats initiated by him to anyone appearing to be under the age of 18 revealed he allegedly initiated chats with approximately 58 underaged users through Whisper prior to his November indictment.

Several screen names were also linked to Mathews including but not limited to “Big T,” “random name,” “fun runner,” and “wanna buy a duck."

Gallant confirmed in March prosecutors became aware through the ongoing investigation of at least three alleged female minor victims, all 16 years-old at the time, that were contacted by Mathews via Whisper prior to his November indictment.

Investigators conducted interviews with the three discovered females and two of the three alleged instances involved requests for nude photos and one a subsequent sexual encounter.

There have been no charges filed concerning those three alleged victims.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the Mathews case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative that rallies 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.

The investigation was a joint effort between Homeland Security Investigations and the Miami Police Department with Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gallant and Shannon B. Cozzoni handling the prosecution.

For more information about Project Safe Childhood, visit www.justice.gov/psc.

Dorothy Ballard is the managing news editor of the Miami News-Record. Email her at dballard@miaminewsrecord.com and follow her on Twitter @dm_ballard.