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Darknet crimes Irishman described as world’s largest 'facilitator' of child abuse imagery to be sentenced

Eric Eoin Marques’ sentencing date comes eight years after he was first arrested following a Garda raid on his home in Dublin's Mountjoy Square

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Eric Eoin Marques Picture: Paddy Cummins/PCPhoto.ie

Eric Eoin Marques Picture: Paddy Cummins/PCPhoto.ie

Eric Eoin Marques Picture: Paddy Cummins/PCPhoto.ie

An Irishman described by an FBI agent as the world’s largest “facilitator” of child abuse imagery websites will be sentenced in Maryland on May 12.

Eric Eoin Marques’ sentencing date comes eight years after he was first arrested following a Garda raid on his home in Dublin's Mountjoy Square.

There was a six-year legal battle against his extradition from Ireland and two more years since the Supreme Court finally ordered his removal to the US.

The 36-year-old has pleaded guilty to a single count of advertising child photography with two sides agreeing to a recommendation between 15 and 21 years.

In February 2020, he pleaded guilty to operating a web hosting service that allowed users to anonymously access hundreds of thousands of images and videos depicting the rape and torture of infants and older children.

Marques operated a web hosting service on the darknet that allowed thousands of users to view and share child abuse images and videos, according to a court filing.

Marques, a dual citizen of the US and Ireland, was living in Ireland at the time of the alleged offences. The server that he allegedly used was in France.

The darknet is part of the internet but hosted within an encrypted network. It is accessible only through anonymity-providing tools, such as the Tor browser.

Marques created and operated a free, anonymous web hosting service, called “Freedom Hosting,” on a network allowing users to access websites without revealing their IP addresses. In 2013, FBI agents in Maryland connected to the network and accessed a child abuse bulletin board with more than 7,700 members and more than 22,000 posts. Agents downloaded more than 1 million files from another website on the network, nearly all of which depicted sexually explicit images of children.

“Did you do the things the government said you did?” the judge asked Marques after a prosecutor read aloud a summary of the case against him.

“Yes,” Marques said.

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Marques had offered shortly after his 2013 arrest to plead guilty to the charges he is facing if prosecuted in Ireland. The penalties for the charges he faces would be significantly less in Ireland than in the US.

FBI Special Agent Brooke Donahue has described Marques as “the largest facilitator of child pornography websites on the planet,” according to court records.

“He was trying to look for a place to reside to make it most difficult to be extradited to the United States,” the FBI agent said.

Irish authorities didn’t charge him with any related crimes while he fought his extradition.

“That decision was made notwithstanding that (Marques) had offered to plead guilty to at least some of the potential charges that might have been brought against him in Ireland,” a justice on the Supreme Court of Ireland wrote in a March 2019 judgment rejecting his final appeal.

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