Virginia Man Convicted of Sexual Exploitation of Minors

A federal jury convicted a Virginia man today for producing, receiving, and possessing child pornography.

According to court records and evidence presented at trial, Zackary Ellis Sanders, 26, of McLean, engaged in sexual conversations over multiple mobile messaging platforms with at least six different minors. In these conversations, he directed five minors to engage in sexually explicit and self-harming conduct, record themselves doing so, and send the resulting videos to him. He also received videos of a sixth minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Additional forensic evidence recovered from multiple laptops and thumb drives found in Sanders’s bedroom established that he possessed different images and videos depicting the sexual abuse of other children, including videos depicting the sexual abuse of a toddler, and prepubescent children being sexually abused and subjected to sadistic acts. Sanders obtained these images from a Darkweb website, the sole purpose of which was to share and facilitate the viewing of such material.

Sanders was convicted of production, receipt, and possession of child pornography. He is scheduled to be sentenced on March 4, 2022 and faces a mandatory minimum penalty of 15 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Jessica D. Aber for the Eastern District of Virginia; and Special Agent in Charge Wayne A. Jacobs of the FBI Washington Field Office’s Criminal Division made the announcement.

This case was investigated by the FBI Washington Field Office’s Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force.

Trial Attorney William G. Clayman of the Justice Department’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Seth M. Schlessinger and Jay V. Prabhu of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia are prosecuting the case.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and CEOS, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.

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