- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
A Solomons man pleaded guilty Friday in federal court to producing child pornography following an investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.
As part of the plea agreement, Joshua P. Blankenship, 25, 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, according to an ICE press release.
“Joshua Blankenship is typical of the predators children routinely encounter on the Internet,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein in the release.
According to his plea agreement, Blakenship became friends with 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 press release states. The girl sent Blakenship a nude photo she took on her cellphone.
Blankenship sent a text message July 4, 2011, to the girl demanding 10 nude pictures, according to the press release, and said that if she did not produce and send the pictures, she would go to jail because she had sent an illegal image on her cellphone.
Between July 5 and 7, 2011, Blankenship sent several text messages 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 Blankenship, the release states.
Officials said Blakenship was identified and his residence searched Aug. 5, 2011. Blakenship admitted to forcing people younger than 18 to send him pictures and to creating a fake profile on the Internet to gain access to pictures and videos of girls.
As part of the plea agreement, Blankenship will be sentenced to 12 years in prison at his March 15 sentencing before U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus, according to the press release.
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.
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.
The investigation was conducted by HSI Baltimore, the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office and Rapid City, S.D., 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.