Irishman who became world’s largest facilitator of child abuse imagery to serve 27 years in US jail
Authorities say his service included images of some of the “most violent child sex abuse material in the world.”
Content warning: this article contains mentions of child sexual abuse that may be distressing to some readers.
An Irishman who became the world’s largest facilitator of child sex abuse imagery will serve 27 years in a US federal jail.
Eric Eoin Marques, 36, was reportedly sentenced for conspiring to advertise child abuse material, with US officials claiming that “no child in the world is safe” as long as he's walking the streets.
On July 24, 2008, Marques started a free anonymous hosting service on the dark web that allowed users to view and share images of child sexual abuse.
Called ‘Freedom Hosting,' the service grew to proportions that made Marques the “most prolific purveyor of child pornography in the world.”
The service was home to more than 130 anonymous websites that contained a combined total of up to 8.5 million images.
Among these, the most extreme child sex abuse was depicted with victims varying in age, including babies.
Though Marques claimed he did not engage in the disturbing imagery and merely provided a service – a service estimated to have earned him millions – to those who did, evidence suggests otherwise.
Investigators recorded 412 occasions where he personally visited a website portraying the sexual exploitation and abuse of children.
He also visited another server which could only be accessed by distributors of child abuse images, and another service called ‘Onion Pedo Video Archive’ 1,500 times.
Documents show Marques was confident he wouldn't get caught, as when internet users suggested auditing the 30,000 accounts his service hosted “before you end up finding yourself in jail over kiddie porn,” he replied: “I think the Feds have better things to do then go after cartoons.”
Yet the service later became subject to a multinational investigation between authorities in Ireland and the US, both of which Marques is a citizen of.
According to reports, Marques was born in New York in 1985 to a Brazilian father and Irish mother, later moving to Dublin with his parents at the age of six.
In 2013, FBI agents in Maryland connected to his service and downloaded over one million files, nearly all of which depicted explicit imagery of children and child abuse.
Authorities say these included some of the “most violent child sex abuse material in the world”, the likes of which was previously unseen by investigators.
By July 2013, the facilitator’s location was tracked to Marques' one-bedroom flat on Mountjoy Square in Dublin. Gardaí placed the flat under surveillance prior to raiding it and arresting him.
He was released from custody after 24 hours before being arrested again three days later. He was in custody of Irish authorities for six years as US officials waited to secure an extradition warrant.
He has tried to be released on bail twice in Ireland and has also brought a challenge against his extradition to the Supreme Court, but his legal bid failed each time.
In March 2019, Marques was surrendered to FBI agents at Dublin Airport and flown to the US.
He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to advertise child pornography a year later, receiving a 27-year sentence.
As part of the plea deal, he will return to Ireland immediately upon release from federal jail.
If you have been affected by any of the details of this article, you can contact Women's Aid's 24 hour helpline on 1800 341 900, the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre on 1800 77 8888, or Childline on 1800 66 66 66.