Dashawn Webster, 22, signed up for a darknet child abuse forum with a real email address he had regularly accessed from his home I.P. address. Authorities discovered child abuse pictures on several darknet forums that shared a “copyright” watermark with his forum username. Federal investigators found an account on a darknet forum that had uploaded original copies of the pictures, found the I.P. address used to access the email address, and then knocked at the suspect’s front door.
According to the Miami Herald, the federal agents needed to prove the owner of the email address had been living at the Portsmouth, Virginia, residence. They presumably lacked enough evidence to support probable cause in an application for a search warrant. So, a Portsmouth police sergeant knocked on the door at the suspect’s home and, when Webster opened the door, learned the 22-year-old’s name after convincing him that police were searching the area for a person who had been missing.
In addition to convincing the man that the police had been canvassing the area for a missing person, the sergeant confirmed the man who had answered the door also owned the email address under his name. He had also learned that Webster, at the time of the information-gathering conversation, was babysitting two male children of unknown ages. If one of the two children had also featured in his 2016 photographs of a two-year-old, one of the two children would likely have been four at the time.
With the information the Portsmouth police sergeant had obtained at the suspected pedophile’s house, the police applied for a search warrant. A judge granted the request and signed a warrant. Authorities raided the home the next morning. Unfortunately for Webster, his family members had not left the house before the police made their entry. And after the police read Webster his rights, they listened as Webster admitted to signing up for the darknet child abuse sites. He admitted he had taken pictures of a two-year-old child and uploaded them to darknet forums.
He admitted watermarking the pictures. Ultimately, though, that made little difference. His confession will both help the prosecution and pad the defense’s “cooperation” angle, but forensic investigators discovered a folder titled “copyright” on a USB drive that belonged to Webster. The folder contained 15 photos—the same photos that investigators hunted across accounts on various sites in search of the photographer—Webster himself.
Somewhat strangely, however, Webster had only recently moved into the house where the police had arrested him. All the information used to track him down actually matched Webster’s former address. With that said, his former address was the house next door. Maybe the residents of one house had been using the wireless network from the other house. With OPSEC like Webster’s, who needs parallel construction?
Webster is currently sitting at Western Tidewater Regional Jail where he waived his first two hearings.
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