Raleigh registered sex offender sentenced to 15 years in prison on child porn charges

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A registered sex offender who previously served nearly a year in prison on child porn charges will now serve 15 years on more charges that date back to 2019, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

Benjamin Michael Lineberger, now 28, was arrested in December 2019 and charged with 10 counts of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor, warrants showed.

Lineberger was accused of possessing at least 10 video or image files depicting graphic sexual content involving girls ranging in age from 5 to 12 years old, according to warrants.

He is a registered sex offender after previously being convicted of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor in 2018. Lineberger was charged with the crimes in July 2017 and was convicted in March 2018.

Lineberger was sentenced to 19 months in prison but was released on Jan. 20, 2019, having served approximately 10 months. He was registered as a sex offender on Jan. 24, according to sex offender registry records. He was set to remain on the registry for 10 years.

Less than 10 months after his release from prison, Lineberger was arrested again on child porn charges.

According to the release, the Department of Homeland Security received a cybertip in November 2019 about suspected child pornography that had recently been uploaded to a “social media messaging app” from the Raleigh address belonging to Lineberger.

Investigators executed a search warrant at his home and found Lineberger in his bathroom inside the home when they entered, according to officials. Lineberger agreed to speak to the agents at his home and also denied having uploaded any child pornography or being in possession of any of it.

Lineberger told the agents that he had an iPhone and iPad and consented to have those devices searched. When agents searched his bathroom, they found “a broken cellphone inside the toilet tank. The phone was bent, as though someone had tried to break it in half and the cover had been removed.”

All three electronic devices were forensically analyzed, according to the release. A “latent print” was found on the phone that was able to be matched to the suspect. The iPad and broken phone both contained child porn – 1,480 images and 170 videos in total – that “depicted sadistic and masochistic conduct.”

Lineberger was sentenced on Friday to 180 months in prison for possession of child pornography and was also ordered to pay $33,000 in restitution to known victims, the release said.

“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,” United States Attorney Robert Higdon, Jr. said in the release.

“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.

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