Free Daily Headlines


Set your text size: A A A

Owner of 'Yachts o' Trouble' gets prison for secretly taping underage females

ASHEVILLE — A 51-year-old Cleveland County man was sentenced to 35 years in prison for secretly recording nude videos of underage females aboard his yacht, U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray announced on Thursday.

William Richard Hilliard Jr., a former resident of Cleveland County and Cherryville currently living in Gastonia, received the sentence from Chief U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger, who also ordered him to serve a lifetime of supervised release and to register as a sex offender upon his release from prison. Reidinger also ordered Hilliard to pay $88,476 in restitution to five victims and imposed a $5,000 special assessment fee.
According to court documents and statements made in court, Hilliard was arrested on June 11, 2018, by Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, law enforcement officers on charges of video voyeurism. Hilliard, the owner of a yacht called “Yachts O’ Trouble,” had been discovered secretly recording nude videos of unsuspecting females aboard his yacht, including minors and adult guests. Court records show that as a result of the events surrounding his arrest, the FBI coordinated an extensive multi-state and multi-agency investigation.
Investigators discovered that, over the course of eight to ten years, he had secretly produced multiple secret recordings of at least 16 child victims at various locations in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Alabama, including aboard his yacht, in his homes, in various hotel rooms, and elsewhere. Court records also show that, at times, Hilliard made secret recordings of victims he had hired as babysitters for his young children, and used multiple hidden devices to record his victims from different angles while they were using the shower and changing clothes. Some of the victims were as young as 5 years old. According to court records, also Hilliard engaged in sexual acts with one of the minor victims, which he secretly recorded.
Hilliard pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation of a minor and possession of child pornography in April 2019. He is currently in custody and will be transferred to the custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility.
In making the announcement, Murray thanked the FBI’s Charlotte Division, the Myrtle Beach Police Department, the Horry County Police Department, and the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office for their investigation of this case with assistance from FBI Knoxville, FBI Birmingham, Homeland Security Investigations, the Cherryville and Gastonia police departments. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville prosecuted the case, which was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing online sexual exploitation of children. By combining resources, federal, state and local agencies are better able to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue those victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit