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GREENBELT, Md. – An Irishman described as the world’s largest facilitator of child abuse imagery has been sentenced to 27 years in prison.

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Eric Eoin Marques, 36, of Dublin, pleaded guilty in February 2020 to conspiracy to advertise child pornography on the dark web, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office from the District of Maryland. Marques, a dual citizen of Ireland and the United States, was extradited by Irish authorities and arrived in the U.S. on March 23, 2019, to face federal charges that had been filed in Maryland on Aug. 8, 2013, the news release stated.

Prosecutors said Marques created and operated computer servers on the dark web that allowed users to anonymously access millions of images and videos of child pornography, according to The Associated Press.

U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang told Marques that his crimes were the equivalent of those of a drug kingpin, the AP reported.

“This crime was truly despicable,” Chuang said in court before the sentencing.

Marques apologized to the victims and asked for mercy from the court, the AP reported.

“I have destroyed my reputation and my family’s reputation. Please give me a second chance,” Marques told Chuang.

“There is no one in this courtroom who is not repulsed by what happened in this case,” assistant federal public defender Brendan Hurson, one of Marques’ attorneys, told the court. “He will not do this again, and he is remorseful for what he has done.”

Chuang 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 U.S. since his arrest in 2013, according to The Irish Times and the AP. Chuang also ordered Marques to pay restitution of $87,000 to victims of the child pornography that he helped distribute.

Marques operated the anonymous web hosting service, called “Freedom Hosting,” between July 2008 and July 2013, the Times reported.

Prosecutors said the web service “hosted dozens of insidious criminal communities dedicated to the sexual exploitation of children and spread millions of images of that abuse.”

Marques hosted more than 130 anonymous websites containing up to 8.5 million images, the Irish Independent reported.

The dark web is part of the internet but is hosted within an encrypted network, and it is accessible only through tools that keep the users anonymous.

The original version of the plea agreement in May 2021 called for a prison sentence of 15 to 21 years, but Chuang rejected that deal in May, the AP reported.

“It’s too flawed, and I also don’t agree with the outcome,” Chuang said at the time.