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Child Exploitation

West Texas man indicted on federal child sexual exploitation charges

ABILENE, Texas — A federal grand jury in Lubbock, Texas, returned a three-count indictment Wednesday charging a local man with various federal child sexual exploitation offenses. The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas.

Specifically, the indictment charges Charles Linwood Heard, of Abilene, Texas, 55, with one count of attempted enticement of a child, one count of attempted production of child pornography, and one count of attempted transfer of obscene material to a minor. Heard's appearance date will be set by the court at a future date.

The indictment alleges that from Oct. 10 through Nov. 15, 2011, Heard, using email and text messaging, attempted to entice an individual whom he believed to be an under-age boy, but who was actually an undercover law enforcement officer, to engage in sexually explicit conduct. The indictment further alleges that on Oct. 18, Heard sent a sexually explicit image via text message to an individual whom he believed to be a minor male under the age of 16. The individual, however, was in fact an undercover law enforcement officer.

If convicted, the enticement count carries a statutory sentence of 10 years to life in prison, a $250,000 fine and up to a lifetime of supervised release. The attempted production count carries a statutory sentence of 15 to 30 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and up to a lifetime of supervised release. The transfer of obscene matter count carries a maximum statutory sentence of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and a lifetime of supervised release.

The case is being investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Abilene Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven M. Sucsy of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Lubbock, Texas, is prosecuting.

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 or its online tip form. Both are 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.