GREENBELT, Md. — Joshua P. Blakenship, 25, of Solomons, Md., pleaded guilty today to producing child pornography, following an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
As part of his plea agreement, Blakenship must register as a sex offender in the place where he resides, where he is an employee, and where he is a student, under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act.
"Joshua Blankenship is typical of the predators children routinely encounter on the Internet," said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein.
According to his plea agreement, Blakenship "friended" a teenage girl on Facebook in January 2011. They exchanged text messages and by March 2011, Blankenship asked the girl for a nude photo of herself. The girl sent Blakenship a nude photo she took on her cell phone.
On July 4, 2011, Blankenship sent a text message to the girl demanding 10 nude pictures and said that if she did not produce and send the photos, she would go to jail because she had sent an illegal image on her cell phone. Between July 5 and 7, 2011, Blakenship sent numerous texts describing the images he wanted her to produce and threatening to call the police if she refused. The victim produced several dozen pictures and sent them to Blakenship.
Blakenship was identified and his residence searched Aug. 5, 2011. Blakenship admitted to forcing people under the age of 18 to send him pictures and to creating a fake profile on the Internet to gain access to pictures and videos of girls.
Blakenship and the government have agreed that if the court accepts the plea agreement Blakenship will be sentenced to 12 years in prison at his March 15 sentencing before U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood and information about Internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc.
This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.
The investigation was conducted by HSI Baltimore, Calvert County Sheriff's Office and Rapid City, South Dakota Police Department.
The case was prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney LisaMarie Freitas of the U.S. Justice Department, Criminal Division, Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristi N. O'Malley.