"He was a very strange boy … they nicknamed him Casper": the neighbors reveal the childhood of a man accused of being the world's greatest facilitator of child pornography


Photo by Eric Eoin Marques: Paddy Cummins / PCPhoto.ie
Photo by Eric Eoin Marques: Paddy Cummins / PCPhoto.ie

Laura Lynott

Eric Eoin Marques was unable to connect with his colleagues, but the enterprising child used prodigious technical skills to make money – and was eventually accused of being the world's largest child pornography facilitator.

Marques, 33, extradited to the US on March 23, had surrendered to the FBI at Dublin airport after a six-year legal attempt to avoid extradition.

Marques, from Mountjoy Square, Dublin, grew up in Clonshaugh, north of Dublin.

And the man now facing allegations that he conspired to distribute and advertise child pornography on the dark web, lived a secluded life as a child.

Clonshaugh's neighbors, who witnessed excerpts from Marques's childhood, paint the image of a solitary child who did not fit into anything but who taught himself technical skills, allowing him to benefit financially.

"All the children have called Eric Casper," an elderly woman told Independent.ie, referring to her family's clash in her arrest and extradition.

"He was a very strange boy. All my kids said he was weird. He was given the name "Casper" because he was as pale as the ghost of the cartoons.

"And he never seemed to leave. You would see him going up and down the street sometimes, but he was always alone, he did not play with other children.

"He tried to play with my kids a few times, but they did not want to, he could not connect with them. They thought he was strange.

The woman pointed to a green on the other side of the road. During Marques' childhood in the 1990s and early 2000s – that area had been "so full of children, you could barely see the grass," she said.

The green was almost empty when Independent.ie visited the area, there were some women walking around with dogs. But not a child was playing there.

"Everything has changed now. Children get stuck in their headsets in their computer rooms, "said one woman.

"But they can get in trouble too. Nowhere is it safe for the kids. You can not help thinking if Eric had help, he may not have followed the path he did.

"I do not know, I just know that my kids were really shocked when they saw his picture in the paper for that.

"I mean, he was a quiet kid. But there did not seem to be any harm in him.

But another older woman, who says her children tried to play with Marques when he was about 10 years old, said he believed in nothing and that no one could have changed his way.

"I'm glad the Americans have it," she said. "Because if he went through the Irish justice system, it would be too easy for him.

"Eric got a chance to play with my kids when he was a kid. He did not want. He would come to them for a few minutes and then stroll and play alone.

"My kids thought he was weird, in a world of his own. He could not relate to other children.

"But there was more to him. He was very smart. I remember my kids said that he used to make some kind of CD or video game in his room and sell them around the corner.

"He was using technology very early, doing things to sell, and I think that's pretty unusual.

"He was motivated to do that and make money from it. Other children were running around the lawn, children playing.

"Your mother works very hard. She is a good woman. No mother can imagine having a child accused of something like that. I feel for her.

"And there is no way we can forget what he is accused of. We are talking about innocent children whose lives have undoubtedly been destroyed if the accusations are true."

Marques, who has dual Irish and American nationality, has lived in Dublin since childhood.

He is accused of renting space on the server used to host a wide range of images and videos of child abuse around the world.

He claimed to have made hundreds of thousands of euros advertising and distributing the material.

"Eric used to stay at his apartment window, just looking out," another senior resident told Independent.ie.

"He was so pale. He almost did not leave. I remember that in the Millennium we started having street parties.

"All the children would be with them. It was a big event, "the woman added.

"But Eric would never be for them, ever," she said, shaking her head, staring at the floor.

"No one could point the finger, but Eric seemed to be alone and wanted to be alone.

"I'm sure your mother did everything she could for him. You still see her walking up the street after work every night.

"I know she's a hard-working woman and she has to be broken for it. No mother could in her worst nightmare expect her son to grow up accused of it.

"I do not know what went wrong."

Trapped in Dublin in 2013, after an international investigation involving the FBI, Gardai and Europol, Marques had fought against his extradition to the US.

On Monday he appeared in US District Court in Greenbelt, Maryland, where he was on probation.

US Attorney Robert K. Hur thanked the Irish authorities for extradition of the accused, stating: "Criminals can not hide in the dark web or in foreign countries.

"We will find them and bring them to justice …"

Marques offered to plead guilty as long as he was tried in Ireland, but the director of the Public Prosecutor's Office rejected it.

If he is convicted, Marques will face decades in federal prison. Some of the charges have a 30-year term.

Marques taught himself the technology of the web that now saw him accused of providing the web hosting space, allowing criminals to operate without scrutiny, circulating child pornography.

Detectives found evidence that he earned € 1.15m between 2007 and 2013, earning € 250,000 the year before his arrest.

Marques had been referred to a psychiatrist as a teenager, but there was no official diagnosis. However, when he was assessed in prison, it was discovered that he has Asperger's syndrome.

"We do not understand what it was years ago," said one resident where he grew up.

"We did not understand if there was anything wrong. We knew he was different, we just did not know why.

"And now your poor mother has to know that he has gone to America and she will never be able to see him again.

"Could you get over this, what is he accused of? I do not think we can blame him for having a condition. I think we have to blame the man. I believe he knew right from wrong.

Online Publishers


Source link