- Associated Press - Friday, October 3, 2014

RENO, Nev. (AP) - A 47-year-old man has pleaded not guilty to federal charges that he kidnapped a 15-year-old boy and girl in California and brought them to Reno in hopes the girl would engage in illegal sex.

John Thomas Abrams entered the plea Thursday in U.S. District Court in Reno. He has been ordered to stand trial Dec. 1 on two counts of kidnapping and one count of transporting a minor for illegal sexual activity.

Prosecutors say Abrams kidnapped the boy and girl in the Sacramento area between about July 12 and July 22, 2012, and held them for ransom and a reward. He’s then accused of taking them to Reno with the intent of having the girl engage in illegal sex.

“Investigating persons who prey on minors, elderly and other vulnerable victims is a top priority of the Justice Department and U.S. Attorney’s Office in Nevada,” U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden of Nevada said in a statement. “We have dedicated more resources than ever to catching and prosecuting these predators.”

Lauren Gorman, a federal public defender who was appointed on Thursday to represent Abrams, did not immediately return a phone call.

Abrams, indicted by a federal grand jury on Sept. 17, was ordered detained pending trial. He was being held at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center in Carson City.

He faces at least 20 years in prison if convicted on the kidnapping charges and 10 years if convicted on the transportation charge. He also faces fines of up to $250,000 on each count.

Officials with the FBI and Sacramento Police Department conducted the investigation.

Abrams also uses the names Buck, David George Garnett, John McDonald and David Blackwell.

The case stemmed from Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched by the Justice Department in 2006 to combat the growing problem of child sexual exploitation and abuse.

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