A federal grand jury on Thursday indicted a 62-year-old Twain Harte man on five counts, alleging he produced images of children engaged in sexually explicit conduct and downloaded child pornography from the Internet.
The charges against Curtis Benjamin Hults involve the sexual exploitation of minors, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Sacramento. The indictment seeks forfeiture of items used to commit the alleged crimes, including Hults’ home.
Hults pleaded not guilty at his arraignment. He is scheduled to return to court Nov. 12. Hults was in custody Thursday because federal prosecutors said he is a flight risk and a danger to the community.
The indictment alleges that Hults produced images of four minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct between May 10, 2008, and Oct. 8, 2012. The prosecutors say Hults downloaded the child pornography between May 1, 2008, and July 15, 2013.
The investigation began when an alleged victim of sexual abuse came forward and provided information that allowed law enforcement to obtain a search warrant for Hults’ home. Prosecutors said investigators seized numerous computers, hard drives and other electronic storage devices on Aug. 1.
An analysis of those items revealed that Hults had produced still and video images of at least four victims, and he had downloaded thousands of images of child pornography, the prosecutors said.
If convicted, Hults faces a maximum sentence of 15 to 30 years in federal prison for each of the four child-exploitation charges, along with five to 20 years in prison for the charge of receipt and distribution of child pornography. For each charge, there is a potential $250,000 fine and a lifetime term of supervised release.
The FBI, the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Department, the Ceres Police Department and the Visalia Police Department all contributed to the investigation.
Authorities ask anyone with information that might help identify additional victims to call sheriff’s Detective Brandon Lowry at (209) 694-2955 or call the FBI office in Modesto at (209) 543-7846.