HOLIDAY, Fla. (WFLA) — A Pasco County man was sentenced to decades in federal prison after traveling to meet an undercover FBI agent who posed as a parent offering their child for sex. The agency also found over 4,000 images of child pornography on his devices.

Thomas VanGelder, 40, will spend the next 30 years in federal prison for attempted enticement of a minor and possessing child sexual abuse material after pleading guilty back in May. VanGelder caught the FBI’s attention after exchanging child porn images with a New Port Richey man, who was later arrested. The FBI assumed the man’s identity and continued communicating with VanGelder.

Court documents said VanGelder spoke with an undercover agent from May 5, 2021 to May 27 2021. Over the course of the weeks-long conversation, VanGelder sent six child porn images to the agent and told them he wanted to meet up so he could sexually abuse their child. He suggested putting sleeping pills in ice cream so he could abuse the child while they were “passed out”.

VanGelder arranged a meeting with the undercover agent, intending to sexually abuse their child, on May 27, 2021 in Tampa. He was arrested by the FBI. While in custody, VanGelder attempted to text his girlfriend and ask her to destroy a green bag that was hidden beneath his bed. VanGelder had no cell service in the building, so the texts didn’t send.

After obtaining a search warrant for VanGelder’s home, the FBI recovered the green bag with multiple electronic devices inside. The devices contained over 4,000 images of child sexual abuse, “including images depicting prepubescent children subjected to sadomasochistic conduct and bondage”.

Agents also learned that VanGelder was coordinating with an Orlando man to create child sexual abuse content with a 5-year-old girl and infant boy that were in his care.

“As heart wrenching as it is to learn how these predators prey on innocent children, it’s gratifying to share with the public how the FBI’s Child Exploitation Task Forces are finding these perpetrators, rescuing the victims, and ensuring the abusers are brought to justice,” said FBI Tampa Division Special Agent in Charge David Walker.

The investigation was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a Department of Justice initiative launched in 2006 to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse.