ST. LOUIS – A man from Maryland Heights, Missouri, went to federal court on Wednesday and admitted engaging in sexual activity with an underage runaway after meeting the child online.

Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri said Terry Kuehnel, 48, pleaded guilty to one felony count of coercion and enticement of a minor.

Kuehnel told the court he met the girl in 2021 while playing a video game online. The girl was 15 at the time, but initially told Kuehnel she was a young adult.

The two eventually began corresponding via text and audio and video communications, prosecutors said. The girl then told Kuehnel she was 15. Kuehnel requested pictures of the girl’s genitals during their communications.

In his guilty plea, Kuehnel admitted that he knew or had reason to suspect the girl was a minor and that it was not reasonable for him to believe she was older than 16.

On June 5, 2021, just 10 days after the girl turned 16, Kuehnel arranged for her to travel from her home in another state to Missouri. Kuehnel met the girl in a department store parking lot and brought her back to his home. Kuehnel then subjected the girl to unlawful sexual activity.

Law enforcement located the girl at Kuehnel’s home on June 6, after the family had reported her missing.

Kuehnel faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He’ll be sentenced on March 23, 2023.