Federal agents suspected a Portsmouth, Virginia, address was home to a man who made child pornography of a little boy — but agents wanted to verify that he lived there, according to court records.
To do that, a Portsmouth police sergeant showed up at the address on May 14 and said police were looking for a missing person. The story was a ploy, and it worked. The sergeant spoke directly to the suspect, Dashawn Webster, 22, and confirmed with Webster that he lived at the address, court records said.
The sergeant noticed something else, too: Webster was baby-sitting two boys at the time, according to police.
The next day, authorities applied for a warrant to search Webster’s home, which was executed the morning of May 18. Webster and other family members were home at the time, and after he was read his rights, Webster confessed, court records said. He had made sexually explicit images of the boy, he told agents — then he watermarked them with “copyright” and his screen name, and distributed the images, court records said. The victim was 2 years old in November 2016 when Webster said he recorded the images, police say.
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Investigators also searched Webster’s electronic devices at the scene and found “numerous images of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct,” records said.
Webster was arrested and is being held at Western Tidewater Regional Jail, WTKR reports.
Webster had been using a handful of screen names across child porn sites — and investigators were able to trace one account he had created on a website back to an IP address associated with Webster’s Portsmouth home address, according to federal authorities. On another darkweb forum, Webster had used an email address associated with his home address to sign up, court records said.
Separately, when federal investigators had been searching a different suspect’s home, they found a thumb drive that included a folder marked with a screen name. Inside the folder were 15 images of child pornography — all of which were watermarked with that same screen name and the word “copyright,” which would later tie the images to Webster.
Using similarities among passwords and other connections, investigators suspected the screen names — along with a handful of others — all belonged to Webster. And he was using them to access “Darkweb forums dedicated to the sexual exploitation of children,” investigators said.
Before his arrest, authorities realized Webster had moved in February from the address that was associated with the child porn screen names, email and IP addresses to an address next door, records said.
At a U.S. district court appearance Wednesday, Webster waived both hearings he was scheduled to have, WTKR reports.
His public defender declined to comment on the case, according to The Virginian-Pilot.