The Times Herald (Norristown, PA)

Michigan man draws prison for exploitati­on of girl in Limerick

Prosecutor­s: Mark Hillis sexually assaulted girl at Limerick hotel

- By Carl Hessler Jr.

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. projectsaf­

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.

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