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Ex-gym owner pleads guilty in child porn case

By Linda Satter

This article was published August 2, 2014 at 3:22 a.m.

A Heber Springs man who operated a gymnastics center for children pleaded guilty Thursday in Little Rock to a federal charge of receipt of child pornography.

Matthew "Tink" Tinkle, 27, owned Tink's Tumblers when Heber Springs police arrested him in January 2013 on a rape charge.

He had been under investigation since police were called Dec. 20, 2012, about a 13-year-old girl who had been molested, according to a news release from Chris Thyer, U.S. attorney for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas.

He said the girl told police she met Tinkle after attending an "open gym" at his studio. She told authorities that she and other kids would hang out with Tinkle at the gym and that he would occasionally give them rides to and from home.

The girl told authorities that she told Tinkle on several occasions that she was 13, Thyer said. He said the girl also told authorities that Tinkle didn't charge her for using the gymnastics studio.

After she told investigators that she had sent nude photographs of herself to Tinkle via text message, officers seized Tinkle's iPhone. Thyer said it "revealed images of the minor that met the federal definition of child pornography." He said the girl also reported that Tinkle had sent her nude photographs of himself.

On Feb. 27, Tinkle pleaded "no contest" to the rape charge in Cleburne County Circuit Court in exchange for a recommendation that he receive a 10-year sentence.

In federal court, Tinkle was indicted on two counts of receipt of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography. He pleaded guilty to one of the receipt counts in exchange for the other charges being dropped.

When sentenced on his federal receipt of the child pornography charge, Tinkle faces five years to life in prison. He also faces a fine of up to $250,000.

"This case illustrates the necessity of keeping lines of communication open and active with your children," Thyer said in the news release. "We take the safety and security of our children seriously. Together, we will work to ensure that those who seek to prey on our children are not given the opportunity to abuse our sons and daughters."

The news release also quoted Raymond Parmer Jr., special agent in charge of ICE Homeland Security investigations in New Orleans, as saying, "Child predators who use a position of trust in order to groom and abuse their victims are truly the worst of the worst. ... This case serves as an unfortunate reminder to parents that child predators are often hidden in plain sight, seeking access to their victims by any means available."

Metro on 08/02/2014

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