An Irishman described as the world’s largest facilitator of child abuse imagery has been sentenced to 27 years in prison by a US Federal Court.
Eric Eoin Marques, who was extradited from Ireland two years ago, was facing a term of between 21 and 27 years in jail under a plea agreement accepted by all parties and the judge last June.
Marques (36), from Dublin, heard his final sentence in Maryland Federal District Court, following eight years of legal proceedings in Ireland and the US.
He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to advertise child abuse images in February last year. The dual US and Irish citizen operated an anonymous web hosting service between July 2008 and July 2013 which was used to share millions of images of child sexual abuse.
The US government said his web service “hosted dozens of insidious criminal communities dedicated to the sexual exploitation of children and spread millions of images of that abuse”.
He was accused of renting out his vast network of servers to websites which trade in the buying and selling of the most extreme forms of child abuse material. He is alleged to have earned €1.15 million over a five-year period.
On Thursday evening, Judge Theodore Chuang imposed a term of 27 years, according to RTÉ News
Under the deal, the judge will recommend to the US Bureau of Prisons that Marques receive credit for time served in the US and Ireland.
The judge cannot order the Bureau of Prisons to comply but can make recommendations. The deal also mandates that Marques waives any right to appeal.
The investigation into Marques involved several sections of the FBI, including the violent crime section, the child exploitation operational unit and the violent crimes against children international task force. "Significant assistance" was provided from An Garda Síochána, Europol and the legal attaché in London, the US Department of Justice said.
Almost all the material depicted on the servers showed children engaged in sexually explicit conduct with adults or other children, or posed nude or undressed. A “substantial majority” of images depict prepubescent minors, prosecutors said.
Marques lived in New York until the age of five with his Brazilian father and Irish mother before moving to Ireland.
He was arrested in August 2013 at his apartment on Mountjoy Square in Dublin on foot of a formal request from the US. His extradition to the US was approved in 2015.
A series of appeals against the extradition lasted four years and went to the Supreme Court. These were all rejected and Marques was finally surrendered to the custody of US Marshals in March 2019.