WILMINGTON, Del. – A Pennsylvania man was sentenced Thursday to 97 months in prison for transportation of child pornography. The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Kenneth Houck, 36, of Philadelphia was also sentenced to five years of supervised release following his prison term and will be required to register as a sex offender in any jurisdiction in which he lives, works or attends school.
According to court documents, Houck was identified by HSI special agents during an online investigation into a computer network devoted to trading images of child pornography. In January 2011, an undercover special agent located in Delaware downloaded 23 files depicting child pornography that Houck had made available to network members. During online chats with the undercover special agent between January 28, 2011 and February 13, 2011, Houck stated that he hosted parties at his Philadelphia residence devoted to viewing child pornography and using narcotics. Houck also claimed in the chats to have molested young boys in the past, and expressed interest in meeting the undercover agent to molest boys in the future.
"Sexual predators are exploiting and abusing our children for their own personal gratification," said John P. Kelleghan, special agent in charge of HSI Philadelphia. "Today's sentencing underscores the fact that HSI and our law enforcement partners will not tolerate this behavior and will use every tool at our disposal to stop them in their tracks."
HSI special agents executed a search warrant at Houck's Philadelphia residence on February 23, 2011. Upon entering the residence, special agents observed a computer that was logged into the child pornography trafficking network. A forensic analysis of the computer confirmed the presence of approximately 6,470 still images of child pornography, including depictions of adolescent and prepubescent children engaged in sexually explicit conduct. The children depicted were predominantly males, ranging in age from teens to infants. A number of the images depict bondage and violence, including forcible rapes of prepubescent children by adult males.
United States Attorney Charles M. Oberly, III stated, "Prolific traders of hardcore child pornography like Mr. Houck should expect that they will come to the attention of law enforcement agencies. Once identified, they will be prosecuted and their sentences will reflect the seriousness of their crimes."
This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI 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. HSI 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.
While the investigation has not been able to substantiate any cases of actual sexual abuse of children by Houck, if such evidence is found, he could be prosecuted. Any member of the public having information relating to this matter should contact the HSI office in Philadelphia at 215-717-4987.
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.