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Press Release

McLean Man Convicted of Sexual Exploitation of Minors

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Virginia

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A federal jury convicted a McLean man today for producing, receiving, and possessing child pornography.

According to court records and evidence presented at trial, from at least 2017 to 2020, Zackary Ellis Sanders, 26, engaged in sexual conversations over multiple mobile messaging platforms with at least six different minors. In these conversations, he directed five minors to engage in sexually explicit and self-harming conduct, record themselves doing so, and send the resulting videos to him. He also received videos of a sixth minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Additional forensic evidence recovered from multiple laptops and thumb drives found in Sanders’s bedroom pursuant to a court-authorized search established that he possessed different images and videos depicting the sexual abuse of other children, including videos depicting the sexual abuse of a toddler and prepubescent children being sexually abused and subjected to sadistic acts. Sanders obtained these images from a Darkweb website, the sole purpose of which was to share and facilitate the viewing of such material.

Sanders was convicted of production, receipt, and possession of child pornography. He is scheduled to be sentenced on March 4, 2022 and faces a mandatory minimum penalty of 15 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Kenneth Polite, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; and Wayne A. Jacobs, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office’s Criminal Division made the announcement after Senior U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III accepted the verdict.

This case was investigated by the FBI Washington Field Office’s Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force.

Special Assistant U.S. Attorney William G. Clayman and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Seth M. Schlessinger and Jay V. Prabhu are prosecuting the case.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and CEOS, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:20-cr-143.

Updated October 27, 2021

Project Safe Childhood