Published: Dec 02, 2011 11:40 PM EST

FORT MYERS, Fla. - United States Attorney Robert E. O'Neill announces the filing of a criminal complaint charging Ryan Scott Nichols, 23, of Fort Myers, with distribution of child pornography.

If convicted, Nichols faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. His detention hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, December 6, 2011 in U.S. District Court in Fort Myers.

According to the criminal complaint, on October 17, 2011, in Lee County, Florida, Nichols knowingly distributed child pornography over the internet.

A criminal complaint is merely a charge that a defendant has committed a violation of the federal criminal laws, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty. 

The case was 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 (CEOS), 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