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JUST IN: McLean man whose business provided concessions to local schools sentenced for child porn

U.S. Attorneys Office in Alexandria (via Google Maps)

A McLean resident who ran a concessions business that worked with local schools will serve 18 years in prison on multiple child pornography charges, federal prosecutors announced today (Friday).

Zackary Ellis Sanders, 27, engaged in sexually explicit conversations with at least six different minors between 2017 and 2020, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.

He was convicted by a federal jury of possessing, producing, and receiving child pornography on Oct. 27.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Sanders “ran a concessions business that provided food and beverage services for local schools.” Many of the court documents are sealed, so it’s not immediately clear whether he had any business with Fairfax County Public Schools.

Sanders primarily met and engaged with the minors online, the U.S. Attorney’s Office says:

[Sanders] met these minors on various mobile applications and an online forum. Sanders exchanged hundreds of messages with the minors, in which he instructed and induced them 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. Sanders also discussed meeting some of these minors in person and engaging in sexual acts with them and threatened to distribute a video depicting one of these minors to others at the minor’s high school if the minor did not comply with his instructions.

Additional forensic evidence recovered from multiple laptops and thumb drives found in Sanders’s bedroom pursuant to a court-authorized search 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 told law enforcement that he obtained such images from Darkweb websites, the sole purpose of which were to share and facilitate the viewing of such material.

At Sanders’s initial court appearance on March 20, 2020, an FBI special agent testified as a witness for the prosecution that the case involved video depictions and online discussions with a 14-year-old. A defense attorney argued that Sanders could live with his parents during the court proceedings instead of being held in custody, according to a transcript.

“He’s had no history of violence, no history of drug or alcohol use,” the defense attorney said. “I think the evidence would show that he’s a victim of intense bullying as he was growing up.”

The judge ruled that Sanders remain in custody, citing community safety concerns.

Sanders was convicted on five counts of production of child pornography, six counts of receipt of child pornography, and one count of possession of child pornography.

After serving the prison sentence, Sanders will face a lifetime of supervised release, according to the news release.

Photo via Google Maps. David Taube contributed to this report.

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