Former major of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office convicted of abusive sexual contact with a minor
A Port St. Lucie Police Officer has been charged with receiving, distributing and possessing child pornography.
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Robert C. Hutchinson, Acting Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), Miami Field Office, and John A. Bolduc, Chief of Police, Port St. Lucie Police Department, made the announcement.
Michael Edwin Harding, of Port St. Lucie, was charged, by criminal complaint with receiving and distributing material involving sexual exploitation of minors and possession of child pornography, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 2252(a) and 2252A. If convicted, Harding faces a mandatory minimum term of 5 years in prison and maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in prison.
Following his initial appearance today before United States Chief Magistrate Judge Frank J. Lynch, Jr., Harding was ordered held without bond pending a detention hearing on Wednesday, September 30, 2015 at 9:30 a.m.
According to allegations contained in the court record, on July 23, 2015, an individual posted images of child pornography to an instant messaging account for mobile devices. An investigation by law enforcement revealed that subsequently, an additional image and video of child related sexually explicit material were posted to the account. Subscriber information allegedly identified Michael Harding as the accountholder. On September 22, 2015, law enforcement executed a federal search warrant at Harding?s residence and seized Harding?s computer, cell phones and thumb drives, among other materials. A preliminary forensic analysis revealed that the recovered items allegedly contained hundreds of images and videos of children engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
This case is part of Operation Predator, an international law enforcement initiative, led by ICE-HSI, to combat the sexual exploitation of children. Through this collaborative effort, law enforcement strives to protect children from sexual predators, including individuals who travel overseas in order to engage in sexual conduct with minors, individuals who possess, trade and produce child pornography, criminal alien sex offenders, and child sex traffickers. Anyone with information about suspected child exploitation is encouraged to call 1‑866‑872-4973. For additional information regarding the initiative and resources, visit www.ice.gov.
Mr. Ferrer thanked the ICE-HSI and the Port St. Lucie Police Department for their assistance with this investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Daniel Funk and Russell Killinger.
A complaint is only an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.