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Springfield Woman Sentenced for Threatening DCFS Employees

A Springfield woman, Lerin E. Hughes, 25, was sentenced to 42 months’ imprisonment, to be followed by three years of supervised release, following her conviction for cyberstalking.

At the jury trial before U.S. District Judge Colleen R. Lawless, the government presented evidence to establish that Hughes repeatedly made threatening Facebook posts directed towards an employee of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) who was assigned to investigate allegations of child abuse and neglect. Hughes also sent threatening text messages and e-mail messages and sought out the personal Facebook page of a case worker employed by an agency contracted to work on behalf of DCFS.

The threats occurred over a period of four months during the summer of 2022. These threats included threats to kill the two child protection workers. The government also presented evidence that Hughes made statements to other people indicating her desire to shoot the victims and other juvenile court personnel, as well as the governor of Illinois.

At sentencing, Judge Lawless said the victims were doing their job and should not have had to endure Hughes’s threats and harassment. Judge Lawless noted that the sentence was needed to deter others so that DCFS workers could continue to do their important jobs without fear of similar behavior.

Hughes was indicted on October 18, 2022, and was arrested on October 20, 2022. Hughes has remained in the custody of the United States Marshals Service since her arrest.

The penalties for cyberstalking are not more than five years’ imprisonment, not more than three years’ supervised release, not more than a $250,000 fine, and restitution pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3663A.

“DCFS employees work tirelessly to protect children in the State of Illinois,” said Assistant United States Attorney Sarah E. Seberger. “The defendant’s words caused real and severe emotional distress that these victims never should have had to endure for merely doing their jobs. This sentence sends a strong message that there are consequences for online threats of violence towards government employees. I am grateful to the FBI for their work on this case, as well as the important assistance of the Sangamon County Sheriff’s Office.”

“The FBI takes threats of violence very seriously and works diligently to protect the communities we serve,” said FBI Springfield Field Office Special Agent in Charge David Nanz. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to disrupt and investigate those who engage in violent rhetoric—holding accountable anyone who threatens to harass, intimidate, or harm another.”

The case investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Springfield Field Office. Valuable assistance was provided by the Sangamon County Sheriff’s Department and the Sangamon County State’s Attorney’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Seberger and Sierra Senor Moore represented the government at trial.


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