Paul Hicks, a current resident of Bedford, Texas, pleaded guilty in March to one count of receiving child pornography and was remanded into federal custody. U.S. District Judge Reed C. O'Connor upwardly departed from the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. At the sentencing hearing, Judge O'Connor also ordered Hicks to serve a lifetime of supervised release, and he is required to register as a sex offender.
An ICE special agent testified that conservatively, Hicks' massive collection of DVDs and CDs contained more than two million images and videos of child pornography, which included a significant number of images and videos of children under the age of six, including infants and toddlers. The agent also testified that it is the largest collection of child pornography that she, or anyone else in her office, had ever seen.
"Each of the millions of child pornography images Hicks collected and possessed represents an innocent and helpless child victim," said John Chakwin Jr., special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Dallas. "Our ICE agents are committed to identifying, investigating and pursuing prosecution against anyone who produces, or creates a demand for, this perverted product. We will continue to seek justice for the victims." Chakwin oversees 128 counties in north Texas and the State of Oklahoma.
In documents filed when Hicks pleaded guilty, he admitted that on Jan. 27, 2007, while he resided on Marsh Lane in Carrollton, Texas, his computer, storage media device, and CDs contained more than 125,000 images of child pornography. However, since that time, forensic examination has shown that in fact there were millions of images. Hicks admitted obtaining some of the images by subscribing to child pornography web sites, downloading child pornography from those sites to his computer hard drive, and saving images on CDs and other storage media. Hicks also admitted that some images depicted prepubescent minors engaged in sexual acts, and some portrayed sadistic and/or masochistic conduct.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), 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.projectsafechildhood.gov
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. Since Operation Predator was launched in July 2003, ICE agents have arrested more than 11,600 individuals.
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.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Camille Sparks, Northern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.