Keystone Heights man sentenced for child pornography JACKSONVILLE – Chief U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Corrigan sentenced Dennis William Sheffield, Jr., 52, of Keystone …
Keystone Heights man sentenced for child pornography
JACKSONVILLE – Chief U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Corrigan sentenced Dennis William Sheffield, Jr., 52, of Keystone Heights, to 16 years and three months in federal prison for receipt of child sex abuse materials. Sheffield was also ordered to serve a life term of supervised release and to register as a sex offender. In addition, he was ordered to pay $15,000 in restitution to victims of his offenses.
Sheffield pleaded guilty on Dec. 16.
According to the plea agreement, in February 2022, Homeland Security Investigations began investigating Sheffield in response to a CyberTip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The CyberTip indicated that child sex abuse material had been uploaded to a search engine. An IP address for the individual who had uploaded the materials was traced to Sheffield and law enforcement learned that Sheffield was listed as a predator on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Sexual Offenders and Predators registry because of two convictions in 1996 of attempted sexual battery on a child younger than 12.
On March 3, 2022, based on the CyberTip and identification of Sheffield as the subject, law enforcement obtained a federal search warrant for Sheffield’s residence. The following day, authorities executed the search warrant and encountered Sheffield, who was holding a phone in his hand. A preliminary examination of the cellphone revealed multiple files of child sex abuse materials on the phone. Sheffield admitted to having a problem and liked looking at child sex abuse images, which he admitted to having viewed as recently as a couple of days earlier. Sheffield also admitted to saving some of the images on his phone.
“This sexual predator has already served prison time for sexually exploiting children; he clearly did not learn his lesson,” said Homeland Security Investigations Jacksonville Assistant Special Agent in Charge K. Jim Phillips. “Thanks to the Northeast Florida INTERCEPT Task Force, Clay County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, this predator will spend significant time behind bars again.”
The Clay County Sheriff’s Office, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Northeast Florida INTERCEPT Task Force investigated the case. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ashley Washington.
It is another case brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.
Man late on mortgage charged with setting houses on fire
CLAY HILL – According to the Clay County Sheriff’s Office and Fire Rescue, man who was behind $39,345 on two mortgage payments was arrested after both structures were set ablaze on March 13 after claiming they were the results of hate crimes.
George Carneiro, 44, of St. Johns, was charged with two counts of arson after Fire Rescue responded to fires at 74 Conifer Circle and 1556 Sharon Lane. Records showed Carneiro owned both properties. He bought the property on Sharon Lane for $68,000 on June 1, 2022, and the property on Conifer Circle for $42,000 on May 12, 2022. Since then, CCSO said he added modulor homes worth as much as $800,000 on both properties.
The investigation led to Carneiro following the discovery of a video from March 12, which captured one of Carneiro’s employees purchasing fuel tanks with cash at a Walmart. The video evidence was key in establishing a connection between Carneiro and the arson. Carneiro owned the homes that were burned and bank records revealed that he was significantly behind on his payments, CCSO said.
Detectives obtained a search warrant for Carneiro’s phone records, enabling them to geographically track the location of his iPhone during the times when the fires occurred. The video, bank records, interview with the employee who purchased the fuel tanks and electronic records all led to Carneiro’s arrest.
He is currently facing charges of burning to defraud the insurer and false and fraudulent insurance claims related to arson. In addition, the fires were originally staged with false evidence of a hate crime to conceal the true motive behind these crimes.
“I want to thank the patrol deputies who originally responded to these calls and the detectives who worked tirelessly to solve these crimes. Without their efforts, we would not have been able to make this arrest,” Sheriff Michelle Cook said. “I have zero tolerance for anyone who comes into our community and uses hate as a cover for their own schemes. We are fortunate that incidents like this are extremely rare in Clay County, and I appreciate the community members who came forward with information on the case.”
Carneiro was released after posting a $50,006 bond.