Baltimore Man Pleads Guilty to Distribution of Child Pornography
Ashe Posed as a Minor Female on Social Media Platforms to Sell Purported Child Pornography
Baltimore, Maryland – Eric Donovan Ashe, age 24, of Baltimore, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to distribution of child pornography.
The plea was announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner and Acting Special Agent in Charge Rachel Byrd of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office.
According to his guilty plea, from 2017 to September 2019, Ashe posed as multiple minor girls and sold purported self-made pornography to various men in exchange for over $24,000 in gift cards. In addition to searching for child pornography for at least five years, Ashe also distributed and received child pornography.
As detailed in his plea agreement, in 2016 Ashe pretended to be a female minor while communicating with a 13-year-old female victim (Minor Victim 1) on a social media platform. Ashe later communicated with Minor Victim 1 as himself, including engaging in sexually explicit conversations with Minor Victim 1. Ashe also created a fictious social media account in Minor Victim 1’s likeness, using pictures he uploaded from Minor Victim 1’s genuine social media account and a fictitious name. The Minor Victim 1 did not give permission for Ashe to use her likeness in any capacity.
While posing as a minor in the likeness of the Minor Victim 1, Ashe communicated with dozens of men, and arranged to sell sexually explicit pictures and videos of Minor Victim 1 (who he claimed to be to the men). Ashe offered various poses and sex acts in exchange for gift cards in various amounts. For example, on September 27, 2017, while posing as Victim 1, Ashe sent a “menu” to dozens of social media users for the price of certain images and sex acts to online users. In one instance, Ashe sent a messaging stating “100 would get u 2 nude 2 masturbation video and a full body nude”.
Once Ashe completed the negotiations on social media, he instructed buyers to send gift cards to him and then directed the buyers to communicate with him on another messaging application. Once on the messaging application, Ashe received payment and sent the explicit images to the buyers.
From July 7, 2017 to December 17, 2018, Ashe loaded over $24,000 in gift cards and spent at least $17,000 on electronics, restaurant gift cards, and clothing. All orders were shipped to Ashe’s Baltimore address.
As stated in his plea agreement, Ashe used two other fictitious social media profiles where he purported to be minor females. Specifically, on September 5, 2017, Ashe used a messaging application to send a 1 minute and 41 second video that depicts a prepubescent minor female engaged in sexual acts.
On September 11, 2019 law enforcement officials executed a search warrant at Ashe’s Baltimore residence. During the search, investigators seized three of Ashe’s devices which contained over 500 videos and 250 images of child pornography. The files included images of prepubescent minors engaging in sexual acts. A subsequent forensic analysis of Ashe’s devices revealed that Ashe had been searching for child pornography since 2014 and as recently as 2019. For example, on one of Ashe’s cell phones, Ashe searched phrases including: “movies about kids getting raped”, “are all men pedophile” and “necrophilia.”
Ashe faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum of 20 years in prison followed by up to lifetime of supervised release for distribution of child pornography. U.S. District Judge Ellen L. Hollander has scheduled sentencing for November 8, 2021 at 2 p.m.
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 United States Attorney’s Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, 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.
Acting United States Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner commended the FBI for their work in the investigation. Mr. Lenzner thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul E. Budlow who is prosecuting the federal case.
For more information on the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and resources available to help the community, please visit www.justice.gov/usao-md/project-safe-childhood and https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/community-outreach.
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