BLAND, Va. — A Bland County man faces 20 to 50 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to 17 counts of production of child pornography.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Abingdon, William Dean Blankenship, 42, pleaded guilty Wednesday to the counts as well as to illegally possessing a firearm after previously being convicted of a felony,

On Feb. 12, the Bland County Sheriff’s Office and Virginia State Police executed a state search warrant at Blankenship’s Bland County home after receiving information that the defendant had engaged in sexual acts with children and was in possession of child pornography, court documents show.

During that search, law enforcement found a firearm, cellular phone and other electronic devices that belonged to Blankenship and his phone contained over 50 video files of child pornography produced by the defendant which depicted him engaging in sexual intercourse with two minors under the age of 18, according to court documents.

Further investigation determined “Blankenship routinely coerced and enticed the two minors to engage in sexual activity with Blankenship and with one another after providing the minors with narcotics and other controlled substances. Blankenship’s abuse began when the minors were approximately 14 and 13 years old.”

“Blankenship repeatedly used coercive means to abuse his child victims, and now faces a lengthy prison sentence for these horrific acts,” Acting U.S. Attorney Daniel Bubar said. “I am thankful for the hard work of the Department of Homeland Security Investigations and Virginia State Police, who will continue to investigate and, together with our office, prosecute anyone like Blankenship who seeks to prey on our children.”

“Homeland Security Investigations is proud to have partnered with the Bland County Sheriff’s Office, the Virginia State Police, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to hold Mr. Blankenship accountable for his reprehensible actions,” Raymond Villanueva, Special Agent in Charge of Washington D.C. Homeland Security Investigations, said in the announcement.  “His sentencing should serve as a reminder to others who victimize children; we will work tirelessly to bring predators to justice.” 

Blankenship pleaded guilty Wednesday and is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 17, facing an agreed upon sentencing range of between 20-50 years in federal prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The Department of Homeland Security Investigations and Virginia State Police are investigating the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel J. Murphy is prosecuting the case.

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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