Lt. Cmdr. Mark Tilford, 43, a Corpus Christi resident and active duty Navy lawyer, was charged in a nine-count sealed indictment returned by a Corpus Christi grand jury on Dec. 20. The indictment was unsealed Jan. 5 after Tilford was arrested at his home by special agents with ICE HSI and the Navy Criminal Investigative Service. Tilford had his initial appearance and arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Judge B. Janice Ellington the same day. The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack; it has been set for jury trial on March 2. Tilford has been ordered temporarily detained in federal custody pending a hearing on the government's motion to detain him without bond pending trial set for Jan. 7 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Brian L. Owsley.
The indictment accuses Tilford in nine counts of receiving and distributing child pornography via his home computer between July and September 2010. The child pornography allegedly consisted of images and videos of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
The investigation leading to the charges against Tilford was initiated by ICE HSI with the assistance of the Corpus Christi Police Department in July 2010. It involved an undercover Peer to Peer download of child pornography from a computer in Tilford's home.
Both receiving and/or distributing child pornography carry a mandatory minimum term of five years imprisonment up to a maximum statutory punishment of 20 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine and up to a lifetime term of supervised release, upon conviction.
This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders, and child sex traffickers.
ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE. This hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may 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.