A Silver Spring man solicited explicit photos from a teenage boy over the dark web and was found with a collection of thousands of files of child pornography on his computers, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
Kevin Heiting, 30, was sentenced to 20 years in prison Thursday, followed by a lifetime of supervised release, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office press release. Judge Paula Xinis issued his sentence in the U.S. District Court in Greenbelt after he admitted to distributing child pornography as part of a plea agreement.
Federal authorities began investigating Heiting after Swiss Federal Police alerted them to a person distributing child pornography using a virtual private network in Switzerland, according to the release. The information led law enforcement to Heiting, and officers executed a search warrant on his home in May 2016.
There, authorities seized five hard drives, two laptops, a tower computer and an iPhone. A search of one external hard drive revealed more than 17,900 video files and 405,071 image files. According to the plea agreement, many of those files contained sexually explicit content involving children, including infants and toddlers, and were carefully organized into categorized folders.
A file-sharing program on Heiting’s computer showed that he had shared more than 100,000 files between June 2014 and January 2015, and had both received and distributed child pornography. Prosecutors wrote that thousands of users had connected to Heiting’s computer to download files.
Maryland court records list his address as Vierling Road near the Intercounty Connector.
In August 2016, Heiting traveled from Maryland to Central America with a laptop he had bought the day authorities searched his home three months earlier. U.S. customs agents confiscated his laptop on his return, and an investigation revealed that Heiting had been using it to share and download child pornography. He had also anonymously chatted with a 14-year-old boy on the dark web, and convinced him to share sexually explicit images. Heiting told the teen he had collected child pornography since he was 9 years old, according to court documents.
Heiting was indicted on federal child pornography charges later that month. He was released before his trial, but was forbidden from possessing internet-capable devices. In February, law enforcement agents discovered that Heiting still owned two hard drives, three USB thumb drives he hid in an air purifier cabinet and a laptop, on which he had downloaded a file-sharing program and a dark web application.
Heiting had been charged with receipt of child pornography, possession of child pornography, production of child pornography, transportation of child pornography and two counts of distribution of child pornography. In February, Heiting agreed to plead guilty to distribution of child pornography.
The judge issued the maximum sentence allowed by the plea agreement. In addition to his prison sentence and supervision, Heiting will be required to register as a sex offender. A hearing in July will determine the amount of restitution Heiting will be ordered to pay to child pornography victims.