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Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and James T. Hayes, Jr., the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Office of the United States Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), announced today the arrest of RICKY PATRICK HESTER for possession and distribution of child pornography. HESTER, a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point, was arrested by HSI agents today on the West Point campus and presented in White Plains federal court before United States Magistrate Judge Lisa Margaret Smith.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated: “As alleged, Ricky Patrick Hester possessed and distributed illegal child pornography, a crime that victimizes the most vulnerable members of our society. Thanks to the efforts of Homeland Security Investigations, Hester’s alleged illicit conduct was brought to light, and he will now have to answer to these serious charges.”
HSI Special Agent-in-Charge James T. Hayes, Jr. stated: “Few crimes are more damaging and disturbing than the willful possession and distribution of explicit sexual images of children. This is not a victimless crime and HSI will work tirelessly to target and arrest those who enable exploitation by purchasing child pornography.” According to the allegations in the criminal Complaint filed today in White Plains federal court:
From at least as early as February 2013, and up to on or about September 29, 2013, on a number of occasions, HESTER possessed and distributed images and videos containing child pornography. According to the Complaint, during their investigation, DHS agents learned that HESTER used an email account to exchange numerous videos with other internet users that contained what appeared to be minor children engaging in sexually explicit conduct. When HESTER was questioned in his barracks yesterday, he admitted that he sent and received numerous images and videos containing child pornography using a private email account.
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HESTER, 23, of Granger, Indiana, is charged with one count of receiving or distributing child pornography, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and one count of possessing child pornography, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Both counts also carry a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.
Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the Department of Homeland Security. He also thanked the Army Criminal Investigation Command for their assistance in the investigation. He added that the investigation is continuing.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE. Investigators staff this hotline around the clock. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may also be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com
The prosecution is being overseen by the Office’s White Plains Unit. Assistant United States Attorney Daniel P. Filor is in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
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