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Hastings man sentenced to 30 years for producing child pornography

A Hastings man will spend the next 30 years in prison.

Last week, United States District Judge Ann D. Montgomery sentenced Mark Matthew Cortes, 25, to 360 months in prison, along with a lifetime of supervised release, on one count of production of child pornography. Cortes was indicted on Dec. 3, 2012, and pleaded guilty on April 9.

In his plea agreement, Cortes admitted that in November 2011, he knowingly persuaded a minor under the age of 12 to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing images of such conduct on his cell phone. Cortes also admitted that he transferred the images from his phone to his computer and then distributed them to another person. In addition, Cortes admitted that he committed a sexual act with the victim during production.

This case was the result of an investigation by the Minnesota Child Exploitation Task Force, which is sponsored by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney David P. Steinkamp.

Amanda Lee Hughes, also 24, who lived with Cortes, pleaded guilty in March of this year to one count of possession of pornographic works involving minors and one count of endangerment of a child (both felonies) in connection with the abuse and endangerment of a child. Dakota County District Judge Tim Wermager sentenced Hughes to 180 days in jail and probation for five years.

After the initiation of the federal charges against Cortes, the equivalent state charge of use of a minor in sexual performance/pornographic work was dismissed.

According to the criminal complaints filed Oct. 27, 2012, the evidence obtained by the FBI indicated that someone at Cortes’ address was using email to send images containing child pornography to an e-mail account in another country. Further, the emails written by Cortes suggested that he was sexually abusing the female child and taking photographs of the acts. It was determined that Cortes lived with Hughes at an apartment in Hastings.

On Oct. 24, 2012, Hastings Police went to the home of Cortes and Hughes. They had a search warrant with them. Initially, Hughes denied knowing anything about the investigation. At one point she indicated that the child admitted to her that Cortes “had done some things to her.” Hughes eventually said that Cortes was performing sexual acts on the child.

Hughes also admitted seeing the pornographic images on the computer. She said that Cortes put them on the computer, but denied using the child in pornography.

The child told police that Cortes had harmed her and that the incidents occurred when Hughes was at school.

In an interview with police (according to the complaint), Cortes admitted to committing the acts with the child, taking the images, and then sending them to other individuals.