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A 30-year-old Maryland man will spend nearly 20 years behind bars for distributing child abuse content through the darknet and other file sharing programs. After release, the man will spend the remainder of his life on supervised release.
In early 2017, Silver Spring resident Kevin Heiting pleaded guilty to sharing more than 100,000 child abuse photos on the darknet. DeepDotWeb, last year, covered the man’s guilty plea wherein he admitted that he had more than 400,000 child abuse pictures and almost 20,000 videos on various storage devices in his house. The Federal Bureau of Investigation had already found the content on his electronic devices; the confession likely made little difference. His prison sentence, perhaps, was shortened by a modest amount.
In April 2018, United States District Judge Paula Xinis sentenced Heiting and almost put an end to the 2016 case. Heiting will reappear in court in July 2018 for a restitution hearing. The court will be deciding how much money Heiting will be paying the victims of child abuse portrayed in the pictures and videos he had on his laptop and other storage mediums. Although he had more than 400,000 pictures, he undoubtedly had countless pictures of the same child—his restitution will be owed to far fewer children. Some of the parents of the children will receive the money, but in most instances, the government will keep the restitution funds. Not every child in every known child abuse photograph has been identified.
The Swiss Cybercrime Coordination Unit of the Swiss Federal Police provided the United States Homeland Security Investigations with a tip that ultimately led to Heiting’s demise. The Swiss Federal Police had been conducting an investigation into users of a VPN based in Switzerland. The investigation focused on individuals who had used the VPN to mask the distribution of child abuse content on the clearnet. Many pedophiles, like the average music or TV show downloader, share content through P2P programs on the clearnet.
Homeland Security Investigations received a tip from the Swiss Federal Police that contained the IP address of a suspected child pornography distributor. In May 2016, federal authorities executed a search warrant at Heiting’s house and found five hard drives, two laptops, and one desktop computer. Forensic analysis of only one of the hard drives revealed 405,071 pictures of child abuse and 17,913 video files. Evidence showed he had actively shared files from as early as June 2014. Heiting had just purchased a computer on the day of the raid.
In August 2016, Heiting travelled to South America. Authorities knew he had taken the laptop. On his return, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service agents stopped him and seized his laptop. A forensic analysis showed that Heiting had been sharing files with other pedophiles on the darknet. On August 29, Heiting was indicted on charges related to sending and receiving content stored on his computer. The court gave him a pretrial release but barred him from accessing any device capable of accessing the internet. In Early 2018, federal authorities raided Heiting again. They found a laptop and several 5TB hard drives hidden inside an air purifier. The laptop had the file sharing program and Tor on it. The hard drives had child abuse material. He had accessed the laptop the very day of the raid—his last day as a free man for the foreseeable future.