A dual national citizen of the United States and Ireland Eric Eoin Marques, 33, of Dublin, Ireland, pleaded guilty in federal court in Maryland before U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang to conspiracy to advertise child pornography.
Marques was extradited to the United States by Irish authorities on March 23, 2019. In his plea agreement, Marques admitted that between July 24, 2008, and July 29, 2013, he conspired to advertise child pornography by operating an anonymous web hosting service (AHS). Sentencing scheduled for May 11.
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department's Criminal Division said: “The defendant's anonymous web service hosted dozens of insidious criminal communities dedicated to children's sexual exploitation and spread millions of images of that abuse. His guilty plea is proof of the department's fierce commitment to rooting out those who hide behind anonymous networks to commit serious child exploitation offenses.”
U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur of the District of Maryland said: “Child pornography is created by documenting children's sexual abuse. It is an egregious case where one individual facilitated the abuse of more than a million new child victims and attempted to keep the dark web's abuse hidden. We must do everything we can to bring individuals like Marques to justice to keep our children safe.”
Assistant Director Calvin Shivers of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division said: “Today's guilty plea validates the FBI's unwavering commitment to stop those who sexually exploit innocent children. The FBI and its international law enforcement partners will remain steadfast in their pursuit of justice for the world's most vulnerable victims harmed at others' ruthless hands.”
Dark Web Child Pornography Facilitator Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Advertise Child Pornography
According to court documents, between July 24, 2008, and July 29, 2013, Marques operated a free anonymous hosting service located on the “dark web,” an area of the Internet that is only accessible using specialized software, allowing users and website operators to remain anonymous or untraceable. The hosting service hosted websites that allowed users to view and share images documenting children's sexual abuse, including the abuse of prepubescent minors, violent sexual abuse, and bestiality.
The investigation revealed that the hosting service contained over 8.5 million images of child exploitation material. Over 1.97 million of these images and/or videos involved victims that were not known by law enforcement. As of July 12, 2013, one child exploitation website hosted on the hosting service reported nearly 1.4 million files were uploaded and accessible by individuals who visited that hidden service.
During 2012 and 2013, FBI special agents and employees using computers in Maryland downloaded more than one million files from that website. As part of the investigation, those files reviewed. Nearly all of the files depict children who are engaging in sexually explicit conduct with adults or other children, posed nude and/or in such a manner as to expose their genitals, in various state of undress, or depict child erotica.
A substantial majority of the images downloaded by the FBI depict prepubescent minor children who are fully or partially nude or engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
This case 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. Itis led by the U.S. Attorney's 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.
The FBI's Violent Crime Section, Child Exploitation Operational Unit, and the Violent Crimes Against Children International Task Force investigated significant assistance from the Legal Attaché London Office, An Garda Síochána, and EUROPOL. The Department of Justice's Office of International Affairs provided substantial assistance in bringing Marques to the United States and procuring foreign evidence.
CEOS Deputy Chief Keith A. Becker and Trial Attorney Ralph Paradiso and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kristi N. O'Malley and Thomas M. Sullivan of the District of Maryland are prosecuting the case.
The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.
Project Safe Childhood
Criminal – Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section
Criminal – Office of International Affairs
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
USAO – Maryland
Source: Press Release Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs Date: Thursday, February 6, 2020