United States Attorney Robert E. O’Neill announced to local Historic City News reporters that 64 year-old Andrew J. Hitas, Jr., a resident of Palm Coast, pled guilty to a federal charge of receiving child pornography over the Internet.
According to court documents, in March 2011, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service received information from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that an internet protocol address assigned to Hitas had been identified as downloading images containing child pornography from a particular website.
This case was investigated by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.
On May 26, 2011, detectives interviewed Hitas at his residence in Palm Coast.
During that interview, among other things, Hitas told officers that he visits “naturalist websites” that include nude photos of children.
Hitas was shown four images depicting children that were obtained from the web access log pertaining to the IP address assigned to him. Hitas recognized the images of teenage girls who were completely nude, posing in a sexually suggestive manner.
Hitas was then shown four other images that were obtained from the same web access log. These images portrayed two year-old boys and girls engaging in sexual acts with each other. Hitas was asked if he would consider those images to be child pornography, and he replied, “yes”.
According to court documents, after Hitas was advised that the agents would be seizing his computers, Hitas invited the agents into his bedroom, then stated, “It’s all on there”.
Hitas was referring to a particular computer where he acknowledged that he had images and videos of child pornography; further stating that he had been engaged in this type of activity since 2004.
Subsequent forensic analysis of one the seized computers revealed that it contained 3,904 images and 514 videos depicting child pornography.
Hitas faces a mandatory minimum sentence of at least five years and up to 20 years in federal prison and a potential life term of supervised release. The plea agreement also requires Hitas to forfeit two computers.
Hitas has been in custody since his arrest on October 26, 2011 in Palm Coast.
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