Maryland Man Guilty of Darknet Child Porn Accusations

Maryland Man Guilty of Darknet Child Porn Accusations

United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein announced that a Maryland man pleaded guilty to sharing more than 100,000 images of child pornography on the deepweb. The defendant, Kevin Heiting, shared images on the darknet and the dark web, according to the FBI. He additionally communicated with a 14-year-old boy over the darknet eguest sexual simager, said Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, Andre R. Watson.

In June 2014, forensic analysts discovered that Heiting’s laptop shared connections to thousands of computers. Those computers, prosecutors explained, connected to other child pornography viewers across the world—connected via the darknet.

Later, in 2016, a federal grand jury indicted Heiting following an investigation by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations and the FBI. A raid at Heiting’s home revealed massive reserves of child pornography. Law enforcement seized two laptop computers, “a tower computer,” and a cellphone. “A forensic analysis of one of the seized hard drive revealed more than 17,913 video files and 405,071 image files,” a USAO press release from the District of Maryland explained.
A file sharing program found on Heiting’s computer revealed that Heiting shared over 100,000 files between June 8, 2014 and January 6, 2015. The analysis revealed that thousands of users connected to one of Heiting’s laptop computers and downloaded files. The analysis further showed that Heiting both received and distributed child pornography using the laptop computer.
Although officers arrested the 28-year-old Montgomery County man, a judge granted him a pretrial release. The release came with somewhat strict guidelines. The conditions set by the supervisory authority at the time only restricted the man from access to electronic devices—more specifically ones with Internet access.

However, still a “free man,” Heiting bought a new laptop and took a flight from Maryland to Central America. Notably with the laptop. Upon his return trip and touchdown, U.S. Customs and Border Protection immediately detained him. A forensic analysis revealed the obvious: that he purchased and used a laptop while explicitly forbidden to do exactly that. Furthermore, investigators discovered that he contacted a 14-year-old boy over the darknet and exchanged explicit imagery with the teenager—only referred to as “victim” in the court documentation.

On February 1, 2017, the FBI executed a warrant that allowed them to search everything that belonged to Heiting. Officers found “two 5TB hard drives, and three USB thumb drives that had been hidden by Heiting in an air purifier cabinet.” The date Heiting last used the devices, the prosecutors explained, matched that of the defendant’s arrival to Maryland.

Heiting pleaded guilty to the distribution of child pornography, and assuming the court across the plea agreement between Heiting and the government, he will receive between 13 and 19 years in prison.

U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis scheduled the 28-year-old’s sentencing for May 16, 2017.

At this time, no connection between any of the more recent child pornography cases appeared in the court documents. The number of files shared, however, indicate a level infrequently seen among the one-off darknet child pornography cases.

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