A man described by U.S. authorities as the world’s most prolific purveyor of child sexual abuse images at the time of his arrest in Ireland has been sentenced to 27 years in federal prison.
Eric Eoin Marques, 36, created and operated computer servers on the dark web that enabled users to anonymously access millions of illegal images and videos, many depicting the rape and torture of infants and toddlers. Law enforcement had never seen many of those images before finding them on Marques’ servers, according to prosecutors. US district judge Theodore Chuang told Marques that his crimes were the equivalent of those of a drug kingpin. “This crime was truly despicable,” Chuang said.
Justice Department prosecutor Ralph Paradiso said Marques created an online community for sexual predators to anonymously abuse and exploit children and share the horrific images that they created. Marques pleaded guilty in February 2020 to creating and operating a web hosting service called “Freedom Hosting” on the darknet between 2008 and 2013. The darknet is part of the internet but hosted within an encrypted network. It is accessible only through anonymity-providing tools. Investigators found what appeared to be more than 8.5 million images and videos of child sexual abuse on the Freedom Hosting server, according to a court filing that accompanied Marques’ guilty plea.
Eric Eoin Marques, who was extradited from Ireland two years ago, has been sentenced to 27 years in prison by a US Federal Court on charges of conspiracy to advertise child abuse images.
— U.S. Marshals (@USMarshalsHQ) September 16, 2021
Marques was living in Ireland at the time of the offenses. He was extradited to Maryland in March 2019. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to advertise child pornography. Prior to learning his sentence, Marques apologized to the victims and asked for mercy from the court. “I have destroyed my reputation and my family’s reputation. Please give me a second chance,” Marques begged.
A man who the FBI says was the biggest provider of child pornography was sentenced to 27 years in U.S. prison.
Eric Marques' dark web servers hosted over 8 million images of child torture and sex abuse. But he was given credit for 8 years already served in the U.S. and Ireland. pic.twitter.com/f1d5oNAft5
— AJ+ (@ajplus) September 16, 2021
The judge agreed to recommend that the federal Bureau of Prisons give Marques credit for eight years he has served in custody both in Ireland and the US since his 2013 arrest. The judge also ordered him to pay restitution of $87,000 to victims of the child abuse images that he helped distribute.
A dual citizen of the US and Ireland, Marques could return to Ireland after his sentence.