The Times Herald (Norristown, PA)
Michigan man draws prison for exploitation of girl in Limerick
Prosecutors: Mark Hillis sexually assaulted girl at Limerick hotel
PHILADELPHIA >> A Michigan man faces more than two decades in federal prison on child exploitation-related charges after he manufactured child pornography while engaging in text communications with a teenage Montgomery County girl who he then met and sexually assaulted at a Limerick Township hotel.
Mark Allen Hillis, 58, of Southgate, Mich., was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia to 25 years in federal prison after he pleaded guilty to charges of enticing a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity, traveling to engage in illicit sexual conduct, manufacturing and attempted manufacturing of child pornography, transferring obscene material to a minor, and possessing child pornography.
U.S. District Court Judge Eduardo C. Robreno imposed the sentence.
“Mark Hillis not only manipulated a young child into providing him with explicit images of herself, he brazenly traveled across state lines, convinced her to leave her home, and assaulted her — every parent’s worst nightmare,” said U.S. Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero “This 25-year sentence in prison will ensure that he will remain safely behind bars, unable to prey on other children, for a long time.”
The charges arose from Hillis’s sexual exploitation of a 13-year-old girl over the internet and by text message over a period of months, his travel from Michigan to Pennsylvania to meet up with the victim for sex, and his sexual assault of her in a local hotel room when he arrived, federal prosecutors said.
“Thanks to quick and seamless interagency cooperation, we have once again taken a dangerous predator of children off the streets,” said William S. Walker, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations Philadelphia
office. “I want to give special thanks to the Limerick Police Department for initiating this investigation and following it through to the end. Only through cohesive partnerships between federal, state, and local law enforcement can investigations and prosecutions like this one be achieved.”
Hillis met the 13-yearold girl in a YouTube chatroom, according to prosecutors. After obtaining the child’s phone number, Hillis sent hundreds of obscene images and hounded the girl at all times of the day and night, repeatedly requesting her to produce and send him sexually explicit images of herself via text messages, prosecutors alleged.
After months of online and text communication, Hillis convinced the child to sneak out of her home in the middle of the night. Hillis, having traveled to Pennsylvania to meet the victim for sex, then picked her up and took her to a hotel room, where he sexually assaulted her.
“This sexual predator is the personification of ‘stranger danger.’ He used the internet to seek out his victim by connecting with and grooming a young girl, before escalating to sexually assaulting her,” Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele said. “It’s such an egregious case that illustrates the importance of parents talking to their children about internet safety and sharing information with strangers on the internet.
“The entire law enforcement community at the local, state and federal levels are committed to finding and prosecuting this kind of assault on our children, and I thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their successful resolution of this case,” Steele added.
The local investigation began on Dec. 30 when Limerick police received information that a 13-year-old girl received medical attention at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia as a result of a sexual assault, according to a criminal complaint. The investigation determined the girl had been assaulted at a Limerick hotel, according to an arrest affidavit.
The girl told detectives that she informed Hillis that she was 13 years old, court papers alleged.
The investigation was 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 U.S. Department of Justice. Led by U.S. attorneys’ offices nationwide Project Safe Childhood combines federal, state
and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the internet and to identify and rescue victims. More information about Project
Safe Childhood can be found by visiting www. projectsafechildhood.gov.
The case was investigated by the Limerick Township Police Department, the Montgomery
County Detective Bureau, Pennsylvania State Police and Homeland Security Investigations. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Rotella prosecuted the case.