INDIANAPOLIS — An eastern Indiana man was sentenced in federal court Friday to 50 years in federal prison for producing child pornography involving very young girls.
This sentence resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Hamilton County (Indiana) Metropolitan Child Exploitation Task Force.
Joel D. Hilton, 42, of Muncie, Indiana, was sentenced to 50 years in federal prison for producing and distributing child pornography. Hilton was arrested less than six hours after authorities learned of his identity, saving many more potential victims. Federal sentencing guidelines allow for stiffer penalties for crimes involving children younger than 14.
“Protecting our innocent children from internet predators will remain a top priority of our office,” said Josh J. Minkler, acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana. “Producing and distributing pornography re-victimizes our children every time it is passed from one person to another.”
In July 2014, agents from HSI and the Hamilton County task force received information that a website, that Hilton had access to, was being used to trade child pornography. Investigators examined photographs on the site and determined that many of these pictures were taken in Muncie, Indiana.
Further investigation determined that two victims in this case were sisters, between 7 and 8 years old. Hilton produced pornographic images by photographing them in sexually explicit activities. He then posted these images to a website to be traded with others.
Investigators went to Hilton’s home to interview him and noticed a tattoo on his hand, similar to ones depicted on some of the previously found pornographic photos. He was immediately placed under arrest. Authorities also confiscated several electronic devices which they suspected were used to produce and distribute the child pornography.
“This case underscores the value of having well-trained investigators working together, and in cooperation across international boundaries focused on a single mission,” said Andy Dietz, director of the Hamilton County task force. “The safety of our children is paramount and we will work with all of our local, state and federal partners to track down anyone who preys on the innocent.”
Hilton has multiple prior convictions for sex crimes and faces a lifetime of supervised release after serving his sentence. There is no parole in the federal prison system.
This investigation was conducted under HSI’s Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 10,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2014, more than 2,300 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative and more than 1,000 victims identified or rescued.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.