A dual citizen of Ireland and the United States, who was described as the world's largest facilitator of child abuse images, has appeared before a US court.
Eric Eoin Marques from Dublin was due to be sentenced today for conspiracy to advertise child pornography but the matter was adjourned until next month.
Marques pleaded guilty to the offences in February 2020, as part of a plea agreement, and admitted that between 24 July 2008 and 29 July 2013 he conspired to advertise child pornography by operating an anonymous web hosting service.
He was extradited to the US by Irish authorities on 23 March 2019.
At a court hearing in Maryland today, a disagreement arose between the prosecution and the defence over how the sentencing judge should take account of the six years Marques spent in custody in Ireland.
Judge Theodore Chuang adjourned proceedings until 25 June and said that if the matter was going to proceed to trial, it could be next year before the case would be heard.
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According to court documents, Eric Eoin Marques operated a free anonymous hosting service located on the "dark web," an area of the internet that is only accessible by means of special software, allowing users and website operators to remain anonymous or untraceable.
The service hosted websites that allowed users to view and share images documenting the sexual abuse of children.
In court today, prosecutors described Eric Eoin Marques as the largest purveyor of child abuse images in the world and asked for a 21-year prison sentence.
The court was told that the websites involved some of the most heinous crimes against children and that while Marques did not carry out the abuse himself, he was no less culpable for the harm caused.
Prosecutors said that users had to produce new images of child exploitation in order to gain access to some of the websites and that every time these images were circulated it was like repeating the abuse over and over again.
The court was told that investigators had never seen anyone like Marques before and that his crimes are unparalleled.
He was described as a danger to the community and the world at large and the court heard that investigators do not know the full extent of his crimes as they were only able to access a "tiny sliver" of data because the rest was encrypted.
Prosecutors said Marques lived in Ireland, had servers in France and the Netherlands and a drop box for payment in the US, all of which he did to hide his activities
Eric Eoin Marques' defence lawyers asked for a sentence of 15 years in prison.
They said that their client knew what he did was wrong and knew he should be punished but they disputed the prosecution's claim that he made $3.6 million from hosting child exploitation websites.
They also questioned the exact number of images found by investigators, who said the hosting service contained over 8.5 million images of child exploitation material and that over 1.97 million of these images and/or videos involved victims that were not known by law enforcement.