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Child Exploitation

South Texas airline business owner charged with distributing child pornography

BROWNSVILLE, Texas — A local south Texas business owner was arrested on Monday following the filing of a criminal complaint alleging he distributed images of child pornography, announced U.S. Attorney José Angel Moreno, Southern District of Texas. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigation (HSI).

Robert Hedrick, 60, is president of the Brownsville-based Pan American Airways which provides cargo air service between the United States and Mexico. Hedrick is expected to make his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Felix Recio on July 19. The United States expects to request that the court detain Hendricks in federal custody without bond pending further criminal proceedings.

According to court documents, Hedrick is alleged to have shared multiple images of child pornography with undercover investigators from Louisiana and Wisconsin in online chat rooms between Sept. 14 and Nov. 22, 2010. Hedrick was arrested on July 18 by ICE HSI agents at his Brownsville home without incident.

Distributing child pornography carries a mandatory minimum punishment of five years' incarceration and up to 20 years. Fines of up to $250,000 can also be imposed upon conviction for each offense. Additionally, each offense carries a maximum life term of supervised release during which the court can impose a number of special conditions designed to protect children, and require registration as a sex offender.

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.

Assistant U.S. Attorney's V. LaTawn and Carrie Wirsing, Southern District of Texas, are prosecuting the case.