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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of North Carolina

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Former Marine Corps Staff Sergeant is Sentenced to 10 Years for the Receipt of Child Pornography

RALEIGH – United States Attorney Robert J. Higdon, Jr. announced that today in federal court, United States District Judge Terrance W. Boyle sentenced MATTHEW HARTLEY BENTON, 36, from Jacksonville to 120 months in prison, followed by 5 years of supervised release for the Receipt of Child Pornography (CP).  BENTON pled guilty to the charge on January 4, 2018.

     On March 20, 2017, agents with the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) initiated a query of a Peer-to-Peer file share network to identify distributors of child pornography (CP). As a result of the queries, it was discovered a computer was possessing and distributing CP videos and pictures.  Specifically, agents secured a video which depicted a prepubescent female, having forced sex with an adult male.  The child seems to be in extreme pain.  Time Warner Cable provided the subscriber information for the IP address as belonging to BENTON in Jacksonville.

     On March 31, 2017, HSI agents executed a search warrant on BENTON'S residence as soon as he arrived home.  BENTON agreed to speak with the agents and admitted to downloading CP at times.  BENTON denied ever doing anything to his children and only downloading videos and pictures via peer-to-peer on his desktop computer after moving from California to Jacksonville in August 2016.  BENTON stated agents would probably find 50 to 100 images of CP on his computer in hidden folders.  BENTON was then questioned about the existence of videos from a hidden camera that appeared to have been placed in his home and were discovered during a search of the computer.  BENTON admitted purchasing a mini camera and using it to watch his wife and other female visitors in the bathroom when they lived in California.  Though he stated he did not reinstall the camera after moving to  Jacksonville, as there was no good location to put it.  BENTON advised there were times his children used that bathroom and were recorded, but he stated he immediately deleted those videos.

     Based on the investigation, BENTON used file sharing software to receive and store 2,860 images and 63 videos of CP, for a total of 7,585 images of CP as well as 125 images of child erotica.  At least a portion of his collection was then made available for further distribution.  Many of the images depicted children less than 12 years of age engaged in prohibited sexual acts, and multiple images portrayed sadistic or masochistic conduct or other depictions of violence.  Videos were also found on BENTON’s devices that he made using the hidden camera and saved, which included partially nude children using the bathroom in BENTON’s house.

     The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).  The federal prosecution was handled by Assistant United States Attorney Daniel P. Bubar.

     This case was part of the Project Safe Childhood initiative, a national program aimed at ensuring that criminals exploiting children are effectively prosecuted by making full use of all available law enforcement resources at every level.  For more information about this important national project, Project Safe Childhood, go to www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

Topic(s): 
Project Safe Childhood
Updated March 20, 2018