Harold Lavern Benedict, 73, of Crestview, has been sentenced to 19.5 years for the receipt and attempted receipt of child pornography, United States Attorney Jason R. Coody‘s office said in a news release.
The court, citing the need to protect the public, imposed a sentence above the required 15-year mandatory minimum.
“Protecting innocent children from sexual predators remains one of our highest priorities,” Coody said.
He commended law enforcement partners and prosecutors for their efforts in identifying and bringing sexual predators to justice.
This, Coody emphasizes, ensures they never exploit a child again, making the community safer with repeat offenders back behind bars.
The ‘Gift’ of a Laptop
On June 27, 2022, a father at Yellow River Park in Milligan, Fla., provided gas to an older stranded man, according to Coody’s news release. The man, claiming to refurbish computers, asked for the father’s address and phone number to repay him for the good deed.
When the father declined, the man offered a laptop for his children, and upon vetting the computer, the father discovered child pornography.
He immediately contacted the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office.
Law enforcement traced a phone number provided by the older man to Benedict, a registered sex offender, due to prior convictions for attempted sexual battery on a child under 12, and lewd and lascivious act, according to Coody.
Benedict, in an interview, admitted to using foreign internet browsers to obtain child pornography, and he possessed over 700 such images from at least 2019 through 2023, according to the news release.
‘All the Pieces Fell into Place’
The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office and Homeland Security Investigations led the investigation; Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer Callahan prosecuted the case.
Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden said, “This is a case where all the pieces fell into place to expose the ongoing disturbing and criminal conduct of this individual.”
Aden credited investigators and federal partners for their dedication and expertise in removing another child pornography consumer from the streets.
Homeland Security Investigations Tallahassee Assistant Special Agent in Charge Nicholas Ingegno said, “Sexual predators who repeatedly victimize children have no place in our society or in our communities.”
A lifetime of supervised release will follow Benedict’s 19.5-year prison sentence.
About Project Safe Childhood
This case was part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative combating child sexual exploitation and abuse.
Launched in May 2006, it marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute people exploiting children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.
For more information, visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
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