Mark Jay Ashcroft

BONIFAY — A man is behind bars after authorities discovered and shut down what they believe to be one of the largest online distribution hubs of child pornography in the area, according to the Holmes County Sheriff's Office.

The six-week investigation by the Holmes and Walton County sheriff's offices, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the North Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force began after Walton sheriff's investigators 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, according to a news release from the Holmes County Sheriff's Office. Further investigation revealed the activity to be taking place at 1486 North Highway 79, the home of 55-year-old Mark Jay Ashcroft of Bonifay.

A search warrant was served there Sept. 10, when a computer was seen downloading and transferring numerous files, the release said.

A secure preview of the 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, the news release said. Forensic examination of other items seized is continuing, and investigators expect to find more images related to child exploitation, according to the release.

Ashcroft is being held at the Holmes County Jail on $2.8 million bond.