ASHEVILLE, N.C. – U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray announced today that William Richard Hilliard, Jr., 49, of Cherryville, N.C., pleaded guilty to child pornography charges for secretly recording nude videos of underage females aboard his yacht. U.S. Magistrate Judge W. Carleton Metcalf presided over Hilliard’s guilty plea.
According to the indictment and filed plea documents, Hilliard was arrested on June 11, 2018, by Myrtle Beach, South Carolina law enforcement officers on charges of video voyeurism. Hilliard was the owner of a yacht called “Yachts O’ Trouble,” and he had been discovered secretly recording nude videos of unsuspecting females aboard his yacht, including minor and adult guests. Court records show that as a result of the events surrounding his arrest, the FBI coordinated an extensive multi-state and multi-agency investigation.
As Hilliard admitted in court today, law enforcement discovered that, over the course of eight to ten years, Hilliard had secretly produced multiple secret recordings of at least 16 child victims at various locations in North and South Carolina, including aboard his yacht, in his homes, in various hotel rooms, and elsewhere. Court records also show that, at times, Hilliard produced secret recordings of victims he had hired as babysitters for his young children, and used multiple hidden devices to record his victims from different angles while they were using the shower and changing clothes. Some of the victims were as young as five years old.
Hilliard pleaded guilty to production of child pornography, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years and a maximum of 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and possession of child pornography, which carries a maximum prison term of 20 years and a $250,000 fine.
In making today’s announcement, U.S. Attorney Murray thanked the FBI’s Charlotte Division, the Myrtle Beach Police Department, the Horry County Police Department, and the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office for their investigation of this case with assistance from FBI Knoxville, FBI Birmingham, Homeland Security Investigations, the Cherryville Police Department and the Gastonia Police Department. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville is in charge of the prosecution.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in 2006 by the Department of Justice, aimed at combating the growing online sexual exploitation of children. By combining resources, federal, state and local agencies are better able to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue those victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
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