A Berryville man was sentenced on December 18, 2023, to 500 months in prison without the possibility of parole after being found guilty of Traveling with the Intent to Engage in Illicit Sexual Acts with two minor males and for Distributing Child Pornography. The Honorable Judge Timothy L. Brooks presided over the sentencing hearing in the U.S. District Court in Fayetteville.
In May 2022, the Arkansas FBI Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force received a lead from the FBI Kansas City Division that a subject under investigation admitted that he was trading child pornography online with an individual later identified as Ricky Gunter Hilburn, age 42, of Berryville and that Hilburn had even bragged about sexually abusing a minor male.
A search warrant was obtained and executed at Hilburn’s residence, resulting in multiple digital devices being confiscated and Hilburn being arrested. A subsequent forensic examination of the electronic devices seized from Hilburn’s residence confirmed that Hilburn was trafficking child pornography images to others online.
Hilburn was arrested in late June of 2022 and initially charged with ten counts of pandering or possessing medium depicting sexual conduct with a child. According to Arkansas Court Cpnnect he was due back in court in Carroll County on January 22.
Further investigation revealed that Hilburn had groomed two minor males in Oklahoma and would travel across state lines to engage in sexual activity with them. At sentencing, the United States Attorney’s Office presented the Court with evidence that Hilburn had groomed a third minor male and engaged in sexual contact with him on multiple occasions.
Hilburn was indicted by a Grand Jury in the Western District in March of 2023 and entered a plea of guilty in June 2023.
U.S. Attorney David Clay Fowlkes of the Western District of Arkansas made the announcement.
The Arkansas FBI Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force and the Berryville Police Department investigated the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tyler Williams and Assistant U.S. Attorney Carly Marshall prosecuted the case for the United States.
This case was prosecuted as 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 Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and CEOS, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.