Published: Sep 26, 2012 4:16 PM EDT
Updated: Sep 26, 2012 6:08 PM EDT

FORT MYERS, Fla.- Lee County teacher's aide 24-year-old Ryan Scott Nichols was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for distributing child pornography and 10 years prison for possessing child pornography.

The court also ordered Nichols to forfeit a HP TouchSmart computer and a Samsung Galaxy S phone, which were used to commit the offenses.

Nichols pleaded guilty on May 1, 2012.

According to court documents, on or about October 17, 2011, Nichols used a peer-to-peer file sharing network to distribute 15 images and two videos of child pornography to an undercover law enforcement officer. The analysis of his computer and phone revealed that he was in possession of more than 3,000 images and 100 videos depicting child pornography.

"This individual spent an incredible amount of time with children, not only during the day as an elementary school teacher's aide, but also as a volunteer with the Big Brother Program," said Sue McCormick, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations Tampa. "He served in positions of trust, all the while, he was trading child pornography online. I urge child predators to take note. Homeland Security Investigations will identify you and ensure that you are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

This 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. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc.

For more information about internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc and click on the tab "resources."