Orlando, Florida – United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announces that Anthony Joseph Culotta (59, Merritt Island) has pleaded guilty to receiving child pornography. Culotta faces a minimum mandatory penalty of 5 years, and up to 20 years, in federal prison.
According to the plea agreement, Culotta had been a NASA contractor since at least 2004. An investigation led by the NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG) Office of Investigations (OI) revealed that, since at least May 2017 Culotta had been using NASA’s network to obtain child pornography via the internet.
On June 15, 2018, a federal search warrant was executed on Culotta’s work area at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) to search for evidence of child pornography violations. During the search, agents located Culotta’s NASA-issued laptop computer. A forensic examination of the laptop revealed more than 700 images containing child pornography, including images of known child victims identified by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
On August 7, 2018, NASA OIG special agents interviewed Culotta at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Brevard County. During the interview, Culotta admitted that he had used his NASA-issued laptop to search for and view images that piqued his curiosity. He identified some of the images for the interviewing agents. Culotta also said he used his personal computer at his home to search the internet for these images.
Culotta also disclosed that he had saved some of the images he viewed to his thumb drive. Culotta had the thumb drive with him and consented to a search of the device. He told the agents that he hid the images in directories that he had created on the thumb drive. Culotta also admitted that he had been viewing these types of images for as long as he had his personal laptop. During a preview of Culotta’s thumb drive, the forensic examiner located images of child pornography, including young children. Culotta also stated that he had connected the thumb drive to his NASA-issued laptop and viewed the images while at work.
Culotta consented to a search of his personal computer media, where the agents found numerous images depicting child pornography involving young children, including toddlers.
This 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 United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), 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.justice.gov/psc.
This case was investigated by NASA OIG OI. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Ilianys Rivera Miranda.