Grand Forks man sentenced to 25 years for luring minors online to have sex

FARGO - A Grand Forks man will serve 25 years in prison for luring minors online in order to have sex with them, in a case that a federal judge called "unparalleled" in its scope.

1623474+0331 Eric Scott Sansburn.jpg
Eric Sansburn

FARGO – A Grand Forks man will serve 25 years in prison for luring minors online in order to have sex with them, in a case that a federal judge called “unparalleled” in its scope.

“We don’t see many cases when people groom hundreds of teenage girls,” Judge Ralph Erickson said in federal court here Monday. “It’s a horrendous offense.”

Eric Scott Sansburn, in a white hoodie and without handcuffs, apologized to his victims in a statement before his sentence was announced, and complained that his life was ruined by his actions.

A former sergeant in the National Guard, Sansburn was deployed to Iraq and came back with post-traumatic stress disorder, a mental health problem that figured prominently in the case and led to a slight reduction in his sentence.

Sansburn, 30, previously pleaded guilty to seven felony charges for unlawful sexual conduct with children and child pornography. His lawyer asked for a 10-year sentence.


Using a variety of websites, Sansburn preyed on girls between the ages of 13 and 17 and convinced them to meet up for sex, said U.S. Attorney Jennifer Puhl.

After talking with a girl online, Sansburn would pick her up and take her to a remote area for sex, said Puhl. She said victims did not feel Sansburn had forced them into sex, but they also reported feeling that there was no way out.

After having sex with one teenager, he would move on to the next, Puhl said. The victims were left with trauma.

“Even today, they feel shame, embarrassment,” Puhl said in her closing argument. “They haven’t gotten over it.”

Sansburn’s attorney asked for leniency. He said his client had served his country in Iraq and returned mentally disturbed.

“Did we in some way contribute to this happening?” the defense attorney, Tyler Morrow, asked rhetorically. By “we,” he meant the U.S.

“Did we break him?” Morrow asked again.

But Puhl said Sansburn’s sexual interest in minors predated his military deployment.


A psychological expert who testified said of Sansburn’s sexual attraction to young girls: “That interest was there, before PTSD, before Iraq.” But the PTSD made matters worse, the expert said.

In an October plea agreement, Sansburn agreed to plead guilty to two counts of transportation of a minor across state lines for sex; three counts of coercion of a minor; and two counts of possession of child pornography, all felonies.

The prosecutor’s indictment referred to four minors preyed on by Sansburn, but court testimony Monday indicated he had preyed on many for several years.

The prosecutor, who called the defendant “cocky” for trying to get a job in law enforcement at the same time he was involved with underage girls, asked that he be sentenced to 29 years.

“The defendant has shown no remorse,” Puhl said.

Judge Erickson sentenced Sansburn to 305 months, more than twice what Sansburn’s attorney proposed.

“This is bad behavior. This is unconscionable conduct. And there’s a callousness to it,” the judge said.

Sansburn, who will serve a lifetime of supervised probation after his release from prison, said he would “never commit these offenses again.”

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