BONIFAY – A cooperative effort between Holmes County Sheriff’s Office, Walton County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the North Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICACT) has resulted in the arrest of a Bonifay man and the shutting down of what law enforcement officials believe to have been one of the largest online distribution hubs of child pornography in the area.
The six-week operation began after investigators with WCSO observed videos and images of child pornography being downloaded and distributed through a file-sharing network from a hub first thought to be located in Walton County. Further investigation revealed the activity to be taking place at 1486 North Highway 79, the Bonifay residence of Mark Jay Ashcroft, 55.
A search warrant was served at that address Monday, September 10, during which time a computer was observed running the file sharing program, actively downloading and transferring numerous files.
A secure preview of the active device revealed 288 videos depicting explicit imagery of numerous children between the ages of 7 and 15.
Numerous other hard drives and electronic devices were also seized at the home.
Ashcroft, who admitted to downloading and distributing the images, was arrested and charged with 288 counts of possession of child pornography and distribution of child pornography transmitted via an electronic device.
Forensic examination of other items seized is ongoing with investigators anticipating the discovery of more illicit images related to child exploitation.
Ashcroft is currently being held at the Holmes County Jail on a $2.8 million bond for 288 counts related to possession and distribution of child pornography.
Sheriff John Tate would like to thank WCSO, ICACT, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for their assistance in this investigation.