A Sunset Hills doctor pleaded guilty Wednesday to distributing child pornography.
Ashu Joshi, 48, of Sunset Hills, pleaded guilty in front of U.S. District Judge John A. Ross, signing on to a plea deal that says the former St. Louis University Hospital doctor began a relationship with a 16-year-old girl, producing child pornography that he exchanged with the girl over Facebook Messenger.
The charge of distribution of child pornography carries a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment and a fine of no more than $250,000. Ross set sentencing for Oct. 7. Joshi was suspended from his job at SLU after the charges were initially pressed in October 2018, and his medical license has been suspended.
Joshi was 46 years old and a doctor when he began a relationship with a 16-year-old girl, according to the plea agreement. Joshi met the girl through her mother. The mother was a former patient of the doctor’s in Kentucky. The doctor and victim had sex and took pornographic pictures. Both exchanged photos over Facebook Messenger.
After Joshi was charged in Missouri, he married the girl in Kentucky, and she later had their baby, prosecutors have said at court hearings. Federal prosecutors in St. Louis have questioned whether the marriage is valid because the two failed to inform a judge that Joshi faced charges related to the relationship with the girl, who he was barred from having contact with as part of his bail in the case.
In October 2018, a St. Louis County Police Department officer received four cyber-tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children related to the case, after Facebook tipped off the national organization that what appeared to be child pornography was being sent in messages to and from Joshi. The tips went first to the Bowling Green, Kentucky Police Department. The BGPD then asked St. Louis County Police for help after investigators learned one of the parties lived in St. Louis County.
The tip told investigators that between August and September 2018, a Facebook account linked to the doctor uploaded and sent several pictures containing child pornography.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, St. Louis County Police Department and the Regional Computer Crimes Education and Enforcement Group investigated this case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Colleen Lang and investigator Donya Jackson are handling the case for the United States Attorney’s Office.