EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. – A jury convicted a St. Louis man Wednesday who attempted to engage in sexual activity with a minor, though was busted by an undercover agent who posed as a teenage girl online.
Vallie Zeller, 46, was found guilty of three felonies, including attempted enticement of a minor, travel with intent to engage in sexual conduct with a minor and attempted sexual exploitation of a minor.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Zeller used an online platform and talked online to an undercover agent who posed as a 15-year-old girl. The conversations date back to June 2020 and messages indicated that he intended to have sex with the minor.
Investigators say Zeller drove across the Missouri-Illinois border to engage in criminal sexual
activity once the agent gave him an address in Collinsville to meet the purported
minor. In addition, during the conversation over several days, Zeller asked the alleged girl for
nude photographs and other sexually-explicit content.
“The defendant deliberately tried to exploit a minor for sexual activity and chose to drive across
state lines to engage in criminal sex acts, and I’m grateful the jury convicted him on all counts,”
said U.S. Attorney Rachelle Aud Crowe. “The FBI works diligently to protect minors from
online predators, and I appreciate their collaboration with our office to put this offender behind
“The FBI’s investigation revealed a deliberate attempt by Vallie Zeller to victimize a child. Our
utilization of proactive investigative techniques stopped Zeller from completing the harm he
intended,” said FBI Springfield Field Office Special Agent in Charge David Nanz. “We are
grateful to the many law enforcement partners who participated in this investigation.”
Zeller is expected to be sentenced on July 18, 2023, with a minimum expected sentence of 15 years in prison for his conviction.