Irish man pleads guilty to child abuse image offences in US court

Eric Eoin Marques, extradited from Ireland, hosted 'insidious criminal communities’

Eric Eoin Marques at the Four Courts, Dublin for a High Court hearing in 2013.

Eric Eoin Marques at the Four Courts, Dublin for a High Court hearing in 2013.

 

A 33-year-old Dublin man has pleaded guilty in federal court in the United States to conspiracy to advertise child pornography.

Eric Eoin Marques, who is a dual US and Irish citizen, and a Dublin resident, operated an anonymous web hosting service between July 2008 and July 2013. The service was used to share millions of images of child sexual abuse. He was extradited to the US by Irish authorities in March of last year.

In a statement, the US Department of Justice said Marques was indicted on four counts, alleging that he conspired to, did advertise and distribute the material. In a plea agreement, he admitted that he conspired to advertise the material.

The plea was made in a Maryland court. Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski said Marques’ web service “hosted dozens of insidious criminal communities dedicated to the sexual exploitation of children and spread millions of images of that abuse”.

His guilty plea is proof of the deparement’s fierce commitment to rooting out those who hide behind anonymous networks to commit serious child exploitation offenses.”

The hosting service was located on the so-called dark web, part of the internet which can only be accessed by special browsers, which allows users and website operators to remain anonymous or untraceable. The dark web has grown into a marketplace for illicit and illegal goods, as well as a repository for abusive material such as that advertised on Marques’ service.

“The hosting service hosted website 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,” according to the department of justice in the US. The investigation revealed that the service contained over 8.5 million images of child exploitation material, almost 2 million of which were not already known by law enforcement.

Almost all the material depcited children engaged in sexually explicit conduct with adults or other children, or posed nude or undressed. A “substantial majority” of images depict prepubescent minors.

The investigation into Marques involved several sections of the FBI, including the violent crime section, the child exploitatoin operational unit and the violent crimes against children interational task force. “Significant assistance” was provided from An Garda Síochána, Europol and the legal attaché in London, the US Department of Justice said.