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Child Exploitation

South Texas airline business owner indicted on multiple child pornography charges

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – A south Texas airline business owner was indicted by a Texas grand jury on multiple child pornography-related charges earlier this week. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigation (HSI).

Robert Hedrick, 60, president of the Brownsville-based Pan American Airways, was charged with attempting to produce child pornography images, transferring obscene materials to a minor, two counts of distributing child pornography, and possessing child pornography.

According to court documents, the original charges resulted from alleged Internet contact between Hedrick and undercover investigators in Louisiana and Wisconsin. On two separate occasions during that investigation, investigators posed as minors with whom Hedrick allegedly shared multiple images of child pornography.

Hedrick has been in federal custody since his arrest at his home on July 18. The court is expected to set a date for Hedrick's arraignment on the charges next week.

If convicted of attempting to produce child pornography, Hedrick faces no less than 15 years and up to 30 years in federal prison without parole. Transferring obscene material to a minor carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. Distributing child pornography carries a mandatory minimum of five years to a maximum of 20 years in federal prison. A conviction for possessing child pornography carries a punishment of up to 10 years in prison. Each count also carries a fine of $250,000 and a term of supervised release of no less than five years and up to life. During the period of supervised release, the court can impose any number of conditions designed to protect children. Additionally, registration as a sex offender is mandatory.

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. Attorneys V. LaTawn and Carrie Wirsing, Southern District of Texas, are prosecuting the case.