Michael Harding was once recognized as “Officer of the Year” – he was a decorated young cop who seemingly had a bright future ahead of him. He had worked for the Port St. Lucie Police Department since 2008.
But now Harding is accused of living a double life. The married father of three is accused of distributing and receiving child pornography – sometimes while on duty as a police officer.
According to a federal complaint obtained by PEOPLE, an anonymous user had posted child pornography photos on the social media application Kik. Investigators allegedly traced the activity back to Harding.
Investigators believe that several of the photos were posted from Harding’s cell phone. The police department provided federal investigators with the location of Harding’s police cruiser during the timeframe that the photos were posted. According to the investigators’ account, Harding’s activity was allegedly “consistent with the child pornography uploads taking place while Harding was working in his vehicle.”
On Tuesday morning, investigators searched Harding’s home. From a gun case, they recovered a thumb drive allegedly containing “hundreds of images and videos of children engaged in sexually explicit conduct,” the investigator wrote.
Investigators say there were also photographs and videos related to Harding’s employment as a police officer.
The allegations have shocked Harding’s fellow officers. “If these allegations are true, this is very disturbing,” Port St. Lucie Police Chief John Bolduc said in a press conference.
During a federal court hearing Wednesday morning in Fort Pierce, Harding was charged with sending and receiving child pornography. He faces a minimum of five years and maximum of 20 years in prison.
Harding’s attorney did not return PEOPLE’s calls for comment.
SOURCE: STEVE HELLING