By Robert Zullo
NEW ORLEANS — A 34-year-old offshore oilfield diver from Houma was sentenced Wednesday to more than seven years in federal prison after admitting to possession of child pornography.
The man pleaded guilty in November to downloading more than 1,100 sexually explicit images of children, including some younger than 12. Agents from the Department of Homeland Security’s Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement found the images on two computers and portable drives belonging to him, a former diver for a Houma-based commercial diving company. He was arrested in July 2007 after he returned from a stint offshore.The man’s arrest followed an investigation into “Home Collection,” a commercial child-pornography Web site targeted by federal agents, according to court documents.
For about $100 each, he purchased two 30-day subscriptions to the service, operated by a criminal organization that maintained other sites featuring sexually exploitative images of children, the documents state.
Agents traced several PayPal accounts set up to make payments for the illegal pornography, leading them to the man and other customers. PayPal is an Internet service that facilitates online payment for a variety of goods and services.
The diver was arrested after agents met his crew boat in Venice.
He admitted downloading child pornography from the Internet but said he thought it was legal “because it was free,” the court documents show.
However, he told the agents he used search terms like “illegal” and other sexually-explicit phrases to locate the pornography.
He will serve 87 months in federal prison.
As a condition of his sentence, he will have a lifetime of supervised release and will be barred from having any unsupervised contact with anyone younger than 18.
He will not be permitted to use a computer or the Internet and must provide a DNA sample.
The investigation was part of Project Safe Childhood, a Department of Justice program intended to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse. The initiative coordinates federal, state and local law-enforcement efforts to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. Go towww.projectsafechildhood.gov for information.