WASHBURN COUNTY -- A convicted sex offender is facing new criminal charges following an undercover sex crime sting during which he allegedly attempted to persuade a minor female to engage in sexually explicit conduct.
On July 13, 2021, an Investigator with Washburn County Sheriff’s Office was operating an undercover online profile depicting a young female as the account owner. The undercover account was contacted by a male, later identified as Tony Woodford, of Cadott, WI.
The criminal complaint filed against Woodford states that he asked the undercover how old “she” was, and the undercover advised that she was 14 years old. Additional messages were exchanged between the undercover and Woodford, with Woodford asking to see “her” without any clothing on her upper body.
On July 19, 2021, the undercover responded to a message from Woodford and over the next several days, numerous messages were sporadically exchanged between Woodford and the undercover. According to the criminal complaint filed against Woodford, he sent photos of his genitalia to the undercover; told the undercover that she could call him “Daddy” if she wanted, and indicated that she was the little princess. Woodford also allegedly asked the undercover how she would get out of the house without her parents knowing, and asked if she was home alone when her mother was at work.
The criminal complaint goes on to state that Woodford asked for photos of the undercover in either a bikini or bra and underwear. When the undercover declined to send any photos like that, Woodford allegedly stated, “You’re telling Daddy you’d rather show him in person”, and asked, “Do u want to make love to daddy”. Woodford told the undercover that she better not be talking to other guys because that would be cheating and that she should come to Cadott. Woodford also told the undercover multiple times to make sure that she deleted all their messages.
The Washburn County Sheriff’s Office served a subpoena for records from Woodford’s account and the information received in response to that subpoena indicated that Woodford was the owner of the account. Investigators discovered that Woodford was a registered sex offender and that he was on probation for a conviction of child abuse, intentionally causing harm.
The Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) provided Woodford’s sex offender report to the Sheriff’s Office, and this confirmed that Woodford is required to register all online user accounts with the DOC. Neither the social media accounts which Woodford had been using to communicate with the undercover officer nor the email address used to create those accounts were registered with the DOC, according to the criminal complaint. In addition, conditions of Woodford’s sex offender registration prohibit him from having unsupervised contact under the age of 18 without approval by a DOC agent.
On August 11, 2021, Woodford was taken into custody by the Cadott Police Department and later transported to the Washburn County Jail. When Investigators spoke to Woodford, he indicated that he would like to talk to an attorney, according to the criminal complaint, so the investigator did not ask any questions at that time.
Woodford however went on to tell Washburn County Sheriff’s Investigators that he had lost his phone and only recently found it, according to the criminal complaint. The officer who arrested Woodford provided Investigators with four cell phones; one of the phones had been on Woodford’s person when he was taken into custody. The other three phones had been turned over by an acquaintance of Woodford’s.
A search warrant for the contents of the phone found on Woodford’s person when he was arrested was executed, and Investigators located a conversation between Woodford and the undercover account that was operated by the Washburn County Sheriff’s Investigator. The criminal complaint also states that Investigators located multiple messages that had been sent from the phone during the time frame in which the undercover officer was communicating with Woodford and identified the sender as “Tony”.
Charges of Class C Felony Attempt Sexual Exploitation of a Child; two counts of Class H Felony Sex Offender Registry Violations; Class I Felony Exposing a Child to Harmful Materials; and Misdemeanor Bail Jumping have been filed against Woodford in Washburn County Circuit Court.
Online circuit court records show that he was placed on a $5,000 cash bond at a hearing on August 12, 2021. An initial appearance hearing was held on August 30, 2021, at which defense counsel for Woodford requested an adjournment of the hearing. He is set to appear again in September 2021.
Woodford is also facing a charge of Domestic Abuse, Disorderly Conduct, Repeater in a Chippewa County Circuit Court case filed against him in April 2021. Details of that case are not known to DrydenWire, but online court records show that a review of that case is scheduled for October 2021.
Pursuant to the direction of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, as found in Supreme Court Rule 20:3.6, Trial Publicly, you are advised that a charge is merely an accusation and that a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.