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Northern District of Florida | Okaloosa County Sex Offender Found Guilty Of New Child Pornography Offenses | #childpredator | #kidsaftey | #childsaftey


PENSACOLA, FLORIDA – Harold Lavern Benedict, 73, of Crestview, Florida, was found guilty by a federal jury for receiving and possessing images of child pornography. The guilty verdict returned Wednesday afternoon, at the conclusion of a three-day trial, was announced by Jason R. Coody, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida.

“Protecting innocent children from sexual predators remains one of our highest priorities,” said U.S. Attorney Coody. “I commend our law enforcement partners and prosecutors who work tirelessly to identify these predators and bring them to justice so that they may never exploit a child again. Due to their collective efforts, our community is safer, and this repeat offender is exactly where he belongs – back behind bars.”

On June 27, 2022, a father was at Yellow River Park with his children in Milligan, Florida, and purchased gasoline for an older man who was stranded. The older man requested the father’s address and phone number to send him money, and when the father declined, the older man, who claimed to refurbish computers for a living, offered the father a laptop for his children. Upon arriving home, the father vetted the computer prior to giving it to his children, only to discover it contained child pornography. The father immediately contacted the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office (OSCO) and provided the laptop. Through the investigation, law enforcement was able to link a phone number, provided by the older man, to Harold Lavern Benedict, a local registered sex offender due to prior convictions for Attempted Sexual Battery on a Child Under 12, and Lewd and Lascivious Act. OCSO Investigators interviewed Benedict on September 2, 2022, and he admitted to using foreign internet web browsers to obtain child pornography at least once per month. Law enforcement obtained search warrants for several of Benedict’s electronic devices and determined that Benedict possessed over 700 images of child pornography. Benedict was engaged in such conduct from at least 2019 through 2023.

“This is an unusual case where all the pieces fell into place to expose the ongoing and disturbing criminal conduct of this individual,” said Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden. “Once again, due to the dedication and expertise of our investigators and federal partners with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, another child pornography consumer will be taken off our streets.”

“This recidivist sexual offender fed his perversion through a vast collection of explicit imagery depicting the sexual abuse of children,” said Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Tallahassee Assistant Special Agent in Charge Nicholas Ingengo. “This case is yet another example of the unwavering commitment of HSI, alongside our law enforcement partners in Florida’s Panhandle, to investigate and vigorously prosecute those who prey upon our children.”

Sentencing is scheduled for November 15, 2023, at 2:00 p.m., at the United States Courthouse in Pensacola before United States District Judge T Kent Wetherell, II. Based on his prior child sex offense conviction, Benedict faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 15 years in federal prison, with a maximum of 40 years imprisonment.

This conviction was the result of an investigation conducted by the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office and the United States Department of Homeland Security. Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer Callahan prosecuted the case.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice and led by the U.S. Attorney’s Offices and the Criminal Divisions Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), it marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida is one of 94 offices that serve as the nation’s principal litigators under the direction of the Attorney General. To access available public court documents online, please visit the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida website. For more information about the United States Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Florida, visit http://www.justice.gov/usao/fln/index.html.



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