Texas air cargo company founder gets 30 years in child porn case

Wed Dec 19, 2012 5:22pm EST

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(Reuters) - The founder of a Texas air cargo company was sentenced to 30 years in prison Wednesday for possessing and distributing child pornography and attempting to sexually exploit children, prosecutors said.

A federal judge in Brownsville, Texas handed down the sentence to Robert L. Hedrick, 61, who was convicted in May.

Hedrick founded Pan American Airways, a cargo company based in Brownsville that shares a similar name but is unrelated to the now-defunct international carrier Pan American World Airways. A phone number listed on cargo carrier's website has been disconnected.

When Homeland Security agents arrested Hedrick on July 18, 2011, they found hard drives that contained more than 2,400 images and 18 videos of child pornography, prosecutors said.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Texas also presented evidence that Hedrick was chatting with an undercover agent he thought was a 14-year-old girl in Louisiana.

A jury convicted Hedrick of attempted sexual exploitation of children, transfer of obscene materials to a minor and distribution and possession of child pornography after a six-day trial in May.

Hedrick's defense had argued that he was setup by relatives or business associates, saying others may have accessed his computers to conduct the chat sessions.

U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen ordered Hedrick to pay more than $5.4 million in restitution and to remain on supervised release after he finishes his prison sentence, prosecutors said. He was also ordered to register as a sex offender.

(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Leslie Gevirtz)