Dark Web Child Pornography Facilitator Sentenced to 27 Years in Federal Prison for Conspiracy to Advertise Child Pornography
Millions of Images of Child Exploitation Material Found and Removed from Hosting Service
Greenbelt, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang today sentenced Eric Eoin Marques, age 36, of Dublin, Ireland, to 27 years in federal prison, followed lifetime supervised release, for conspiracy to advertise child pornography on the dark web. Marques, a dual national citizen of the United States and Ireland, pleaded guilty to that charge on February 6, 2020, after he was extradited by Irish authorities. Marques arrived in the United States on March 23, 2019, to face federal criminal charges filed in Maryland on August 8, 2013.
According to his plea agreement, between July 24, 2008 and July 29, 2013, Marques conspired to advertise child pornography by operating a free, anonymous web hosting service (AHS) 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 defendant’s 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 200 child exploitation websites that housed millions of images of child exploitation material. Over 1.97 million of these images and/or videos involved victims that were not previously known by law enforcement. Many of these images involved sadistic abuse of infants and toddlers to include bondage, bestiality and humiliation to include urination, defecation and vomit.
The sentence was announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner; Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; and Assistant Director Calvin Shivers of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.
“Eric Marques was one of the largest facilitators of child pornography in the world,” said Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner. “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 are grateful to our law enforcement partners here and abroad for helping us to bring Eric Marques to justice. We will continue to do everything we can to find and prosecute those who use the anonymity of the Internet to perpetuate the cruel and heartless business of the sexual abuse of children for personal gain, in order to keep our children safe.”
“The defendant’s web service anonymously hosted hundreds of insidious criminal communities dedicated to the sexual exploitation of children, which openly and notoriously spread millions of images of child sexual abuse across the globe,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “This complex, global investigation, lengthy and successful extradition, and substantial jail sentence are proof of the Department’s steadfast and unwavering commitment to identifying and bringing to justice criminals who hide behind anonymous networks to abuse and exploit the world’s children.”
“Today’s sentencing of Eric Marques sends a clear message to perpetrators of this egregious crime that no matter where you are in the world, law enforcement will hold you accountable and bring you to justice,” said FBI Assistant Director Calvin Shivers. “The FBI combats crimes against children and stands up for vulnerable children across the globe.”
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.
Marques admitted in his guilty plea that this offense also involved the distribution of child pornography, which involved minors who were less than twelve years old, to include infants and toddlers, and sadistic or masochistic material or depictions of violence. Marques further admits that he willfully obstructed or impeded the administration of justice with respect to the investigation into this offense.
The Marques prosecution was a part of a path-marking global investigation that targeted thousands of users of more than 200 websites operating on the Tor network and dedicated to the trade of child pornography. The Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), FBI, and Europol conceived of and executed a globally coordinated criminal investigation of then-unparalleled scope, which pooled resources of over a dozen countries who deployed over 70 law enforcement agents to Europol, which served as the hub for operational support, facilities and information sharing. Through this investigation, more than 200 child sexual exploitation websites were taken offline (along with hundreds of other sites sponsoring or facilitating criminal activity); the activities of tens of thousands of online child pornographers were disrupted; over four million images and videos of child sexual abuse were seized (including more than 100 previously unknown series of child abuse images and new images from more than 50 existing series); and dozens of offenders were identified and prosecuted throughout the world.
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.
United States Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner and Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. commended the FBI’s Violent Crime Section, Child Exploitation Operational Unit and Violent Crimes Against Children International Task Force with significant assistance from the Legal Attaché London Office, Irish law enforcement authorities, 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.
Mr. Lenzner and Mr. Polite thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas M. Sullivan, and Deputy Chief Keith A. Becker and Trial Attorney Ralph Paradiso of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, who prosecuted 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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