Court documents released last week stated that from 2008 to 2013, Marques ran a hosting service on the dark web, part of the Internet that you only can get to with special software. This allows users to stay anonymous.
His free hosting service hosted sites that let users look at and share pictures of child molestation and child sexual abuse. The investigation showed that Marques’ hosting service contained hundreds of child abuse websites that featured millions of illegal images.
It is estimated that two million of these images were not known by the police, and many showed sadistic abuse of small children.
The US district judge on the case, the man’s crimes were similar to a drug kingpin.
Hosting Service Propigated The Spread Of Child Molestation For Years
Acting US Attorney Jonathan Lenzner stated that this was an extreme case of child pornography being spread around the world by one individual’s actions. Millions of ‘horrific images and videos’ of children been sexually and physically abused were shared.
He added that his sentencing sends a message to child pornographers that international law enforcement will find you sooner or later and hold you accountable.
Europol also was involved in the child pornography and exploitation case. A spokesperson said last week that they praised the FBI and other law enforcement agencies in Europe. They noted that ensuring the safety of children by finding and arresting child pornographers is one of their highest priorities.
More Than 200 Child Porn Websites Taken Down
This child pornography investigation has targeted thousands of child pornography criminals who used more than 200 websites on the Tor network and dedicated to trading child pornography.
The investigation involved several law enforcement agencies in the US and Europe, including more than 70 organizations in 12 countries. There are few other examples where so many international law enforcement agencies have worked together to facilitate an arrest.
In addition to the 200 websites taken down, there were hundreds of other sites found that sponsor or facilitate other criminal activities.
More than 4 million videos and images were seized and dozens of child pornography offenders were prosecuted.
Convicted Man Apologizes And Pleads For Mercy
During his sentencing, the child pornographer apologized to his victims and asked for mercy from the court. He said that he had destroyed his reputation and that of his family. Some of the affected family were allowed to give victim impact testimony at the sentencing.
The judge agreed to give Marques credit for the eight years he spent in jail in Ireland and the US since he was arrested in 2013. The judge also ordered him to pay $87,000 to the victims of his crimes.
In his original plea agreement, Marques and prosecutors agreed to a sentence between 15 and 21 years. But the judge rejected the deal as flawed.
The revised agreement recommended he serve between 21 and 27 years, but Chuang was allowed to give a stiffer sentence. Some types of cases restrict the sentences that federal judges can hand down, but that was not the case here.
At that point, federal prosecutors recommended a 27-year sentence and a lifetime of supervision after release. He has no possibility of parole.
Defense attorneys asked for a 21-year sentence for their client. He can go back to Ireland when he finishes his prison sentence.
Marques Pleaded Guilty In February 2020
Marques gave a guilty plea early in 2020 for hosting and running a free web service he called ‘Freedom Hosting’ on the dark web from 2008 to 2013. The dark web is encrypted and only can be accessed with tools that provide anonymity to users.
Investigators discovered more than 8 million images and videos of child pron on his servers. Marques resided in Ireland when the offenses occurred. He was extradited to the US in 2019, when he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to advertise child pornography.
An April 2021 court filing said a witness for the US government was going to tell federal investigators that Marques was the biggest seller of child pornography worldwide and that he had made more than $3 million from pornography being distributed on his servers.
However, Marques’ attorneys said their client made money from his legal web hosting company, not from Freedom Hosting.
Lenzner said this was the first case he knew of where federal law enforcement was able to get to the ‘seeds’ of the child pornography trade and put a stop to a lot of the problem. However, it is certain, he added, that others will take Marques’ place and try to capitalize financially on an illegal trade that does severe damage to children.