Gene Hickman, Jr., of West End, age 63, was sentenced Tuesday to 228 months in prison for receiving child pornography, according to the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina. Hickman is also subject to lifetime supervision upon release.
According to court documents, in February 2018, Hickman engaged in sexually explicit chats on Instagram with a 15-year-old boy and a second individual purporting to be a 14-year-old boy.
During one of the chats, Hickman revealed that he had engaged in sexual activity with a minor boy on multiple occasions. Hickman also favorably discussed the sexual abuse of boys with another Instagram user who claimed to have sexually exploited multiple minors.
Facebook, Inc., the owner of Instagram, reported the conduct to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).
The following month, Facebook, Inc. reported a second Instagram account used by Hickman to NCMEC because it contained a child pornography image depicting an adult male engaging in a sex act with two prepubescent boys. NCMEC issued CyberTipline reports concerning Hickman’s accounts. The reports were routed to the Moore County Sheriff’s Office.
In June 2018, Moore County investigators executed a warrant at Hickman’s residence and recovered four devices that, in total, contained hundreds of child pornography files.
Moore County investigators obtained the contents of Hickman’s Instagram accounts from Facebook, Inc. The records revealed additional similar behavior concerning the sexual exploitation of minors and claims by Hickman that he sexually molested multiple minors.
In December 2019, Moore County and North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation investigators executed a second warrant at Hickman’s residence. Investigators found Hickman’s unlocked phone and a manual search of the device revealed that Hickman had used a heavily encrypted messaging application to send and receive child pornography files.
Hickman admitted that he engaged in sexual activity with a minor boy on multiple occasions over a period of years. The Federal Bureau of Investigation then adopted the case for further investigation and federal prosecution.