RALEIGH, N.C. – A Raleigh man was sentenced today to 180 months in prison for Possession of Child Pornography. He was also ordered to pay $33,000 restitution to known victims.
United States Attorney Higdon stated: “Child pornography – the horrible exploitation of the most vulnerable among us – is one of the worst and most intolerable crimes we prosecute. And today’s sentencing reflects the Department of Justice’s deep and abiding commitment to removing these predators and restoring our children. The Court’s sentence allows us to take another step in the right direction as we work to eliminate this crime and its terrible consequences for our communities.”
“This sentencing not only removes a serial predator from our community, it also sends a message to others engaged in this filth that we are serious about finding, arresting and prosecuting them,” said acting Special Agent in Charge Ronnie Martinez, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in North Carolina. “Thanks to some hard work and the great partnerships we have with our law enforcement and community partners, this community can rest easier knowing this monster is no longer free.”
According to court documents, in November 2019, agents with the Department of Homeland Security received a cybertip regarding suspected child pornography that had been uploaded to a social media messaging app from the address in Raleigh at which Benjamin Lineberger, 28, lived. A search warrant was executed at the residence and when the agents entered the residence, Lineberger was found in a bathroom. Lineberger agreed to speak with agents. He denied uploading or being in possession of any child pornography. Lineberger admitted to having an iPhone and an iPad and gave agents consent to search the digital devices. Agents searched the bathroom where Lineberger was found initially and found a broken cell phone inside the toilet tank. The phone was bent, as though someone had tried to break it in half and the cover had been removed.
The iPhone and iPad and the cell phone were forensically analyzed. The broken cell phone had a latent print on its screen that was matched to Lineberger. The iPad and the broken cell phone contained child pornography. In all Lineberger possessed approximately 1,480 images and 170 videos that depicted child pornography. Many of those depicted sadistic and masochistic conduct.
Lineberger had previously been convicted for a similar offense, Third Degree Sexual Exploitation of a Minor in Wake County Superior Court, North Carolina.
This case was part of the Project Safe Childhood initiative, a national program aimed at ensuring that criminals exploiting children are effectively prosecuted by making full use of all available law enforcement resources at every level. For more information about this important national project, Project Safe Childhood, go to www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
Robert J. Higdon, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge James C. Dever III. The Department of Homeland Security Investigations, North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, the Cary Police Department, Raleigh Police Department and the United States Marshal’s Service investigated the case and Assistant U.S. Attorney Charity Wilson, prosecuted the case.
Related court documents and information can be found on the website of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina or on PACER by searching for Case No. 5:20-CR-246.