Palm Coast Man Sentenced to 7 Years in Federal Prison for Receiving Child Pornography over the Internet
Jacksonville, Florida - United States Attorney Robert E. O'Neill announced today that United States District Judge Roy B. Dalton, Jr. sentenced Andrew Hitas (65, Palm Coast) to 7 years in federal prison for receiving child pornography over the internet. Hitas was also sentenced to a term of 5 years of supervised release, and required by the court to register as a sex offender and forfeit two computers. He has been in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service since his arrest in Palm Coast on October 26, 2011.
According to court documents, in March 2011, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (“NCIS”) received information from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE HSI) that an internet protocol (“IP”) address assigned to Hitas had been identified as downloading images containing child pornography from a particular child pornography website. The agents obtained web access logs from this website. On May 26, 2011, an NCIS agent and another task force officer interviewed Hitas at his residence in Palm Coast. Hitas was informed that the officers were conducting an investigation into child pornography. Among other things, Hitas stated that he looks at naturalist sites that include nude photos of children. Hitas was shown images depicting children that were obtained from the web access log pertaining to the IP address assigned to him. Several of these images contained minor males and females that appear to be as young as two engaged in sexual acts.
According to court documents, after Hitas was advised that the agents would be seizing his computers, he invited the agents into his bedroom and stated “It’s all on there,” referring to a particular computer. Hitas acknowledged that he had images and videos of child pornography, and that he had been engaged in this type of activity since 2004. A subsequent forensic analysis of one of Hitas’ computers revealed that it contained 3,904 images and 514 videos depicting child pornography, as well as logs of online conversations between Hitas and another individual discussing the sexual molestation of children. This case was investigated by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney D. Rodney Brown.
It is another case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc for more information about internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc and click on the tab "resources."