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Press Release

Former Erie Resident Pleads Guilty in Project Safe Childhood Prosecution

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Pennsylvania

ERIE, Pa. - A former resident of Erie, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of violating federal laws relating to the sexual exploitation of children, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.

Mark Joseph Bretz, 28, pleaded guilty to three counts before United States District Judge David S. Cercone.

In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that Bretz received computer images depicting minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct and used interstate communications to extort several victims into providing Bretz sexually explicit or suggestive material.

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 Attorneys’ 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

Judge Cercone scheduled sentencing for October 7, 2019 at 3:00 p.m. The law provides for a total sentence of 24 years in prison, a fine of $750,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Assistant United States Attorney Christian A. Trabold is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Erie County Detectives Bureau and the Aurora, Colorado Police Department conducted the investigation that led to the prosecution of Bretz.

Updated May 14, 2019

Project Safe Childhood