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Child Exploitation

Navy JAG attorney pleads guilty to receiving child pornography

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas - A Naval officer stationed at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi pleaded guilty on Thursday to receiving child pornography, announced U.S. Attorney José Angel Moreno, Southern District of Texas. The case was investigated by the following agencies: Corpus Christi Police Department (CCPD), the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Lt. Cmdr. Mark Tilford, 43, of Corpus Christi, Texas, an active duty attorney with the Navy's Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps, pleaded guilty to receiving child pornography before U.S. District Court Judge Janis Graham Jack. He now faces a mandatory minimum term of five years imprisonment up to a maximum statutory punishment of 20 years imprisonment and up to a lifetime term of supervised release.

Tilford was accused in an indictment returned Dec. 20 of receiving and distributing child pornography via his home computer between July and September 2010. The child pornography consisted of images and videos of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

Tilford acknowledged that in July 2010 a detective with CCPD, while acting in an undercover capacity, conducted an investigation into the online activities of persons distributing child pornography via peer-to-peer software. On July 26, 2010, the detective downloaded multiple files of child pornography traced to a computer at Mark Tilford's residence. As a result, a federal search warrant obtained by federal agents was executed on Tilford's Corpus Christi home on Oct. 1, 2010. Agents seized several computers and other electronic storage devices. Subsequent forensic analyses of those devices led to discovering 266 images and 98 videos of suspected child pornography on two computers, many of which have been identified as containing known victims by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Tilford has been in custody since his Jan. 5 arrest by NCIS and ICE HSI where he will remain pending his sentencing hearing, which set for May 26 at 2:30 p.m. before Judge Jack.

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.