A pedophile who is serving 40 years in prison for attacks on two 7-year-olds had more than 17,000 images of child pornography when arrested.

Robert Vernon Patnoude, 28, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court Wednesday to one count of possession of child pornography. With his plea, a more serious charge of distribution of child pornography will be dropped.

“Seventeen thousand images of child pornography were discovered on a memory device,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Dean Eichelberger said. “The defendant also had printed images.”

Patnoude, who lived on Carline Road in Burnettown before his arrest, was heavily shackled and wearing beige South Carolina Department of Corrections-issue clothes. He spoke clearly and politely to Chief Judge Margaret Seymour.

On June 23, 2011, Patnoude pleaded guilty to six indictments for criminal sexual conduct with a minor under 11, and admitted to sexually assaulting two 7-year-old boys.

These charges came from General Sessions indictments. The attacks occurred between the fall of 2010 and the time of his arrest in March 2011. On Wednesday, Eichelberger told the court that the arrest came from a federal law enforcement operation tracking those downloading child pornography.

The prosecutor said an undercover agent downloaded child pornography from a peer-to-peer site. The agent tracked the Internet Protocol address of the person downloading the file to Patnoude.

Details about the arrest, in which neighbors of Patnoude were first thought to be the perpetrators, were not offered in court. Patnoude was leeching the wireless Internet connection of neighbors, without their knowledge or permission, to download the illegal images.

Now that his guilty plea has been accepted by the court, Patnoude faces up to an additional 10 years in prison. He is currently estimated to be released in 2051.