Dark Web Child Pornography Facilitator Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Advertise Child Pornography
Hosting Service Contained Over 8.5 Million Images of Child Exploitation Material
A dual national citizen of the United States and Ireland pleaded guilty in federal court in Maryland to conspiracy to advertise child pornography.
Eric Eoin Marques, 33, of Dublin, Ireland, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang to conspiracy to advertise child pornography. 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).
Marques was extradited to the United States by Irish authorities on March 23, 2019. He was indicted in a four-count indictment alleging that he conspired to, and did advertise and distribute child pornography, between July 24, 2008 and July 29, 2013, by operating the AHS. Sentencing is scheduled for May 11.
“The defendant’s anonymous web service hosted dozens of insidious criminal communities dedicated to the sexual exploitation of children and spread millions of images of that abuse,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “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.”
“Child pornography is created by documenting the sexual abuse of children,” said U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur of the District of Maryland. “This is an egregious case where one individual facilitated the abuse of more than a million new child victims and attempted to keep the abuse hidden on the dark web. We must do everything we can to bring individuals like Marques to justice in order to keep our children safe.”
“Today’s guilty plea validates the FBI’s unwavering commitment to stop those who sexually exploit innocent children,” said Assistant Director Calvin Shivers of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “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 the ruthless hands of others.”
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 by means of special 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 the sexual abuse of children, 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 and 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 were reviewed and 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 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. 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. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc. For more information about Internet safety education, please visit www.justice.gov/psc and click on the “Resources” tab on the left of the page.
The FBI’s Violent Crime Section, Child Exploitation Operational Unit and the Violent Crimes Against Children International Task Force conducted the investigation with significant assistance from the Legal Attaché London Office, An Garda Síochána and EUROPOL. The Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance in bringing Marques to the United States and procuring foreign evidence during the investigation.
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. Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.