Swiss Federal Police help catch Maryland child porn distributor

Greenbelt, Maryland – United States District Judge Paula Xinis sentenced Kevin Heiting, age 30, of Silver Spring, Maryland today to 20 years in prison, followed by a lifetime of supervised release, for distribution of child pornography and other admitted conduct detailed in his plea agreement.

The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur and Special Agent in Charge Andre R. Watson of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

This case began as a lead to HSI from the Swiss Cybercrime Coordination Unit of the Swiss Federal Police regarding an individual distributing child pornography using a Virtual Private Network based in Switzerland.

On May 19, 2016, based in part on the Swiss investigative lead, a federal search warrant was executed at Heiting’s residence in Silver Spring, Maryland, and law enforcement seized five hard drives, two laptop computers, a tower computer, and a cellular telephone. A forensic analysis of just one of the seized hard drives revealed more than 17,913 video files and 405,071 image files, many of which depicted children, including infants and toddlers, engaged in sexually explicit conduct.  A file-sharing program found on Heiting’s computer revealed that Heiting shared over 100,000 files between June 8, 2014 and January 6, 2015.  The analysis revealed that thousands of users connected to one of Heiting’s laptop computers and downloaded files.  The analysis further showed that Heiting both received and distributed child pornography using the laptop computer.

The same afternoon that the search warrant was executed, Heiting purchased a new laptop computer.  On August 4, 2016, Heiting traveled from Maryland to Central America with the laptop, which Heiting was using to run a file sharing program and to conduct online chats with minors.  On Heiting’s return from Central America, the laptop was detained by officers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection and subsequently forensically examined.  The analysis revealed that in addition to sharing and downloading child pornography, Heiting was communicating with a 14-year-old boy over the “dark web” using an encrypted web chat application.  Enticed and persuaded by Heiting, the victim sent Heiting images of himself engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

On August 29, 2016, Heiting was indicted on federal child pornography charges and placed on pretrial release, with conditions which forbade Heiting from possessing Internet capable devices.  On February 1, 2017, law enforcement agents executed a search warrant at Heiting’s residence and recovered a laptop computer, two 5TB hard drives, and three USB thumb drives that had been hidden by Heiting in an air purifier cabinet.  An initial forensic review of the laptop revealed that it contained a file-sharing program and the encrypted “dark web” application that Heiting had previously used.  The laptop computer had last been accessed the very morning the search warrant was executed.

Heiting will be required to register as a sex offender in the place where he resides, where he is an employee, and where he is a student, under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).

A hearing will be held in July 2018 to determine the amount of restitution to be paid to child pornography victims.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse.  Led by the United States Attorney’s Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims.  For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.  For more information about internet safety education, please visit www.justice.gov/psc and click on the “resources” tab on the left of the page.

United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended HSI Baltimore, the Montgomery County Police Department, the Maryland State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection – Atlanta for their work in the investigation, and the Swiss Federal Police for their assistance.  Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph R. Baldwin and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Finocchiaro, who prosecuted the case.

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