A U.S Air Force colonel has been sentenced to prison after admitting to downloading and receiving child pornography on the dark web. Colonel Mark Visconi of Fairfax, Virginia, had previously entered into guilty pleas in a U.S Federal Court in October last year and was handed a five-year prison sentence on Friday in a Federal Court in Alexandria. The U.S Air Force Colonel downloaded several pornographic contents of girls and also used his phone to take photos of young girls clothed behinds. Over 100 photos were uncovered on his mobile phone when he was caught. Colonel Visconi was also handed a 15-year supervised release sentenced.
Appearing before Reagan-appointed U.S District Judge, T.S Ellis, it was revealed that, Colonel Visconi used a router that hid his real identity whiles he was on the dark web, searching and downloading child pornography. In a filing presented by prosecutors, they stated that: “The Air Force Colonel viewed and downloaded videos that were inherently sadistic”. Federal prosecutors had also sought a longer prison sentence of eight years in the filing, as they argued that, he should be held to a higher sentence because of his position, according to court documents.
Image Source: nationalinterest.org
An additional investigation from the Homeland Security Investigations revealed that the Air Force Colonel took 441 pictures with his phone’s camera, usually “focusing on the buttocks” of the underage girls. Court documents showed that most of the pictures taken were “upskirting” images and according to federal prosecutors, the underage girls did not appear to be aware that someone was taking photos of them. A forensic analysis of his laptop by officers of the U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), showed that Visconi had viewed numerous pornographic videos and images of children and had also downloaded several videos.
Raymond Villanueva, Special Agent in Charge of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, speaking after the sentencing stated that Colonel Visconi didn’t not only deliberately scorch the dark web for child pornography, he also produced and distributed many pornographic contents. Agent Villanueva added that the Air Force Colonel made himself a part of this vile, cruel and despicable industry that exploits children who are the most vulnerable people in our society. The 58-year-old was also ordered by Judge Ellis to pay a restitution fee to one of his identified victims as well as undertake 50 hours of community service. He is also required to speak and write about his conviction and experience as part of his community service.
The U.S Air Force Colonel was the chief of the Pentagon based Counter-Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Task Force. The 58-year-old was also next in line to take over control of the 11th Air Wing Unit, which is the host of the command of Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, the base where Air Force One is kept. Visconi will reportedly be removed from the U.S Air Force Service after he serves his sentence.
Ann Stefanek, the spokeswoman of the U.S Air Force, stated that, if the request of Colonel Visconi’s removal from the service is approved, that will result in him losing the ability to apply for retirement or any other benefits that come with the honorable service. “Now that the Colonel has been sentenced, the Air Force will begin the process to have him removed from the rolls,” she added. Visconi’s security clearance was immediately suspended as soon as the Air Force was contacted by Law enforcement about his dark web illegal activities.
U.S District Judge T.S Ellis during the sentencing revealed that Visconi’s family wrote a letter pleading for him, to receive a lesser sentence as they claimed he was sexually abused as a child and did not receive the necessary counseling to overcome that trauma due to his military career. Judge Ellis added that Visconi’s ex-wife has also pleaded on his behalf so the Air Force colonel would be able to help her in raising their children. Visconi’s defense attorney, James Phillips didn’t give any comment after the sentencing.
Colonel Mark Visconi was a special operations pilot and decorated Air Force combat veteran who had won two Bronze Star medals for combat missions in Iraq. Visconi also flew 106 combat missions and also trained Iraqi pilots on how to execute counterinsurgency operations, during his tour in the country. According to the U.S Air Force, the 58-year-old also received several recommendations for flying in combat in then times Yugoslavia. He graduated from the U.S Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs in 1993 and received two master’s degrees in addition to being an Arab linguist.
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Visconi’s sentencing now adds to the list of U.S. military personnel who were sentenced to prison for dark web exploits. In October last year, a former U.S Army interpreter was sentenced to 30 years in prison without the possibility of parole for buying and selling fentanyl on the dark web. Alaa Mohammed Allawi, a former Iraqi U.S interpreter pleaded guilty to drug charges against him and confessed to using now-defunct dark web marketplace, AlphaBay to sell a wide range of controlled substances and accepted payment in only cryptocurrencies.
Court documents revealed that the former U.S military personnel was responsible for the death of a U.S Marine in 2017, after selling him a bunch of synthetic pills. The U.S Marine reportedly took one of the synthetic pills he bought from Allawi at a party and later collapsed, before dying at the hospital.
Source: USA Today
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