Former Las Cruces Middle School Basketball Coach Pleads Guilty to Federal Child Pornography Charges
ALBUQUERQUE – Erik Bilal Khan, 33, of Las Cruces, N.M., pleaded guilty this morning in Albuquerque federal court to federal child pornography charges, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Steven C. Yarbrough, Special Agent in Charge Dennis A. Ulrich, II, of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in El Paso, Texas, and Chief Richard S. Williams of the Las Cruces Police Department.
Khan pleaded guilty to a four-count superseding indictment charging him with distribution of child pornography, receipt of child pornography, possession of child pornography, and attempted production of child pornography. The guilty plea was entered under a plea agreement that permits Khan to appeal from the district court’s order denying his motion to suppress the evidence obtained from his residence as the result of a search warrant.
Khan was employed as a basketball coach at a Las Cruces middle school when he was arrested on child pornography charges in May 2012, after law enforcement officers executed a state district court search warrant at Khan’s residence and seized computer and computer-related media from Khan’s bedroom that contained images and videos of child pornography. In Nov. 2012, Khan was indicted and charged with distributing, receiving and possessing visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. A superseding indictment filed in July 2013 added an attempted production of child pornography charge.
In his plea agreement, Khan admitted that from May 2009 to May 2012, he knowingly distributed images and videos of child pornography images. He also admitted knowingly receiving images and videos of child pornography from March 2008 to May 2012. Khan further acknowledged that he knowingly possessed child pornography between July 2008 and May 2012. Finally, Khan admitted that from Sept. 2009 to May 2010, he attempted to persuade a person he believed to be a minor male to produce child pornography for his (Khan’s) use. Khan communicated with the person by email and sent him videos and images of child pornography to induce him to produce child pornography images of himself. Khan committed these crimes in Dona Ana County, N.M.
Khan has been in federal custody since his arrest in May 2012 and remains detained pending his sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled. At sentencing, Khan faces a mandatory minimum of five years and a maximum of 20 years in prison on the distribution and receipt of child pornography charges. Khan also faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on the possession of child pornography charge, and a mandatory minimum of 15 years and a maximum of 40 years in prison on the attempted production of child pornography charge. Khan will be required to register as a sex offender after he completes his prison sentence.
Khan also will be required to serve a term of supervised release to be determined by the court and pay restitution to the victims of his crimes as ordered by the court. Khan’s plea agreement also requires him to forfeit 66 computers, computer-related media, cellular telephones, cameras, and other electronic media seized from his residence in May 2012.
Acting U.S. Attorney Steven C. Yarbrough praised the prosecutors and investigators who worked on the case. “Thanks to the in-depth work of the HSI agents and Las Cruces officers and the excellent litigation of the prosecutors handling this case, Erik Khan faces a mandatory minimum of 15 years in federal prison for his heinous crime of trafficking in child pornography.”
“HSI special agents work diligently every day to put predators, such as this defendant, behind bars,” said Dennis A. Ulrich, Special Agent in Charge of HSI in El Paso, Texas. “Together with our state and local law enforcement partners, we continue committed to stop predators in their tracks, so that they no longer pose a threat to the most vulnerable members of our community – our children. Ulrich oversees HSI operations in the state of New Mexico and west Texas. He cautions young people to be especially cautious as to the types of images they produce of themselves and forward to others on their cellular phones.
“The Las Cruces Police Department has had a good working relationship with agents from Homeland Security Investigations and this case is a direct result of those strong ties. We are pleased to see the adjudication of this case, and will continue to work with HSI in an effort to keep our community safe,” said Chief Richard I. Williams of the Las Cruces Police Department.
The case against Kahn was investigated by the HSI, the Las Cruces Police Department and the New Mexico Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Marisa A. Lizarraga of the U.S. Attorney’s Las Cruces Branch Office and Trial Attorney Ravi Sinha of the Justice Department’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section. Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia L. Weisman is handling the related forfeiture proceedings.
The case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and DOJ’s Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc/.
The case also received support from the New Mexico ICAC Task Force, whose mission is to locate, track, and capture Internet child sexual predators and Internet child pornographers in New Mexico. There are 64 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies associated with the New Mexico ICAC Task Force, which is funded by a grant administered by the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office. Anyone with information relating to suspected child predators and suspected child abuse is encouraged to contact federal or local law enforcement.