Eugene F. Hartzell, 70, of Nesquehoning, pleaded guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court in Scranton on charges of receiving and distributing child pornography.

According to U.S. Attorney Peter J. Smith, Hartzell admitted that he used a computer to download and share images of child pornography during March through September 2010.

Hartzell was indicted by a federal grand jury on Nov. 16, 2010, as a result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), including offices in Rochester, N.Y. and Scranton.

He entered the guilty plea before Senior U.S. District Court Judge Edwin M. Kosik.

Hartzell faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison, a potential maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and a potential life term of supervised release to follow any prison sentence. Hartzell will also be subject to sex offender registration requirements.

U.S. Attorney Smith noted that this case was brought 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 United States Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (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.projectsafechildhood.gov.