Tuolumne County Man Now Faces Federal Charges of Child Exploitation
|U.S. Attorney’s Office October 31, 2013|
FRESNO, CA—A grand jury in Fresno returned a five-count indictment today charging Curtis Benjamin Hults, 62, of Twain Harte, with offenses involving the sexual exploitation of minors, announced United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner. The indictment seeks forfeiture of items used to commit the offense, including Hults’s residence.
The indictment alleges that between May 10, 2008 and October 8, 2012, Hults produced images of four different minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. The indictment also alleges that between May 1, 2008 and July 15, 2013, Hults received images of child pornography from the Internet.
According to the criminal complaint, the investigation began when a victim of sexual abuse came forward and provided information that permitted law enforcement to obtain a search warrant for Hults’s residence. Numerous computers, hard drives, and other electronic storage devices were seized on August 1, 2013. A forensic analysis of that evidence revealed that Hults had produced still and video images of at least four victims, and he had obtained thousands of images of child pornography through the Internet.
This case is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Visalia Police Department, the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office, and the Ceres Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney David Gappa is prosecuting the case.
Because the investigation is ongoing, anyone with information that might assist in the identification of additional victims is encouraged to contact Tuolumne County Sherriff’s Office Detective Brandon Lowry at (209) 694-2955 or call the FBI office in Modesto at (209) 543-7846.
Hults has been arraigned on the indictment and pleaded not guilty. His next appearance is scheduled for November 12, 2013, at 1:00 p.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara A. McAuliffe. Hults has been ordered detained as a flight risk and danger to the community.
If convicted, Hults faces a statutory penalty of 15 to 30 years in prison for each of the four child exploitation counts and five to 20 years in prison for the receipt and distribution charge. For each count there is a potential $250,000 fine and a lifetime term of supervised release. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
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 Attorneys’ 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 those who sexually exploit children and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc. Click on the “Resources” tab for information about Internet safety education.