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Child Exploitation

Maryland woman pleads guilty to conspiracy to produce child pornography

BALTIMORE — Margaret Ellen Jones, 37, of Parkville, Md., pleaded guilty Feb. 6 to conspiracy to produce child pornography, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Baltimore County Police Department.

As part of her plea agreement, Jones must register as a sex offender in the place where she resides, where she is an employee, and where she is a student, under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act.

According to the plea agreement, at some time prior to March 2010, Jones met John Andrew Blaes, 49, also of Parkville, online and became involved in a sexual relationship involving bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism (BDSM). Jones subsequently moved into Blaes' home in Parkville. During this time, including in July 2011, Blaes used the Internet to contact other women and girls to recruit them into the BDSM lifestyle.

On July 5, 2011, Blaes contacted the victim, a 15-year-old female at the time, and solicited her to engage in sexual conduct with him and Jones. Blaes and Jones knew that the victim was a vulnerable minor. As part of the solicitation process, Blaes and Jones sent pornographic pictures of themselves to the victim using the computer.

On July 22, 2011, Blaes and Jones traveled from Maryland to the victim's home in North Carolina to bring her to live with them in Parkville. After picking the victim up in North Carolina, Blaes and Jones sexually abused the victim in the back of their vehicle. The next day, Blaes and Jones rented a hotel room in North Carolina for the purpose of engaging in sexually explicit conduct with the victim. Blaes and Jones used a camera to document the sexual abuse of the victim in the van and the hotel. The images captured by Blaes and Jones include sadistic and masochistic conduct.

From approximately July 22, 2011 to Nov. 20, 2011, Blaes and Jones engaged in sex acts with the victim multiple times a week. Blaes also cut the victim and held lemons to her injuries. The victim was instructed to call Blaes "master" or "sir," and to call Jones "mistress." Blaes and Jones referred to the victim as their "slave." Blaes and Jones instructed the victim to keep the sexual conduct and her age a secret and the victim was kept in their residence or in their control at all times and was not enrolled in school.

Blaes and Jones used a camera and cell phones to document their sexual abuse of the victim and to photograph her in sexually explicit poses. Blaes distributed the sexually explicit images of the victim online for the purpose of recruiting other individuals into his BDSM lifestyle with Jones.

Jones faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 15 years and a maximum of 30 years in prison for conspiracy to produce child pornography followed by up to lifetime of supervised release at her June 11 sentencing before U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar.

Blaes previously pleaded guilty to the conspiracy and to transporting a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct. Blaes is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 19.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys' Offices and the DOJ 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 1-866-347-2423 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, 1-800-843-5678.

HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rachel M. Yasser and Judson T. Mihok.