251 young victims of massive child porn network

A MASSIVE  international online child pornography ring, with links to victims in Australia and New Zealand, has been busted in the US.

US authorities say it is one of the largest operations uncovered.

They arrested and charged 14 suspects in the secret, members-only online network, which had more than 27,000 subscribers.

So far, investigators have identified 251 juvenile victims in 39 states and five foreign countries: 228 in the United States and 23 in the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Belgium. 

Eight of the victims were female and 243 were male.

The majority of victims, 159, were 13 to 15 years old. Fifty nine victims were 16 and 17; 26 victims were 10 to 12; four victims were 7 to 9; one victim was 4 to 6; and two victims were 3 years old or younger.

All victims have been contacted by law enforcement and U.S. victims offered support services from Home Security Investigations victim assistance specialists.

The website's primary administrator, Jonathan Johnson, 27, of Abita Springs, La., has been charged with operating a child exploitation enterprise.

He admitted to creating multiple fake female personas on popular social networks to target and sexually exploit children and to coaching other child predators in his inner circle to do the same.

Jonathan Johnson has been in federal custody since his arrest June 13, 2013, and faces 20 years to life in prison.

"Never before in the history of this agency have we identified and located this many minor victims in the course of a single child exploitation investigation," said  U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement  (ICE) Deputy Director Daniel Ragsdale. 

"Our agency is seeing a growing trend where children are being enticed, tricked and coerced online by adults to produce sexually explicit material of themselves.

"While we will continue to prioritise the arrest of child predators, we cannot arrest our way out of this problem: education is the key to prevention."

The underground website was a hidden service board on the Tor network and operated from about June 2012 until June 2013, at which time the site contained more than 2,000 videos and had more than 27,000 members.

The website shared webcam-captured videos of mostly juvenile boys enticed by the operators of the site to produce sexually explicit material.

Tor enables online anonymity, directing Internet traffic through a volunteer network consisting of thousands of relays to conceal a user's location.

More than 300 investigations have been opened into potential subscribers of the website: 150 in the United States and 150 overseas.

Investigators anticipate ongoing arrests and additional identification of victims as they continue to examine and analyse the more than 40 terabytes of data seized.

Homeland Security Investigations

Last fiscal year, 2,099 child predators were arrested by HSI on criminal charges related to the online sexual exploitation of children.

In 2012, 1,655 child predators were arrested, 1,335 were arrested in 2011, and 912 were arrested in 2010.

Since 2003, HSI has initiated more than 29,000 cases and arrested more than 10,000 individuals for these types of crimes.


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