72 charged in online child porn ring
Attorney General Eric Holder listens at left as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano speaks at the Justice in Washington, Aug. 3, 2011, to discuss the results of the largest U.S. prosecution of an international criminal network organized to sexually exploit children. / AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
Seventy-two people have been charged--of which 52 were arrested--in an worldwide online child pornography enterprise, the Justice Department said Wednesday.
Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Department Janet Napolitano announced the unsealing of three indictments and one complaint charging 72 individuals in the online ring.
Holder spoke of Operation Delego, an investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that was launched about two years ago, that resulted in the prosecution.
"This operation targeted hundreds of individuals, in countries around the world," Holder said, "for their alleged participation in 'Dreamboard' - a private, members-only online bulletin board that was created and operated to promote pedophilia, and to encourage the sexual abuse of very young children."
According to Holder, members of Dreamboard would trade graphic images and videos of adults sexually abusing children and create a vast library of images depicting the abuse.
Interested members were required to upload pornographic images of children 12 years and younger, and continued to do so in order to maintain membership. The more images submitted meant greater access to content.
"Some of the children featured in these images and videos were just infants," said Holder. " And, in many cases, the children being victimized were in obvious, and intentional, pain - even 'in distress and crying,' just as the rules for one area of the bulletin board mandated."
In court documents that were filed, the members of Dreamboard used aliases and screen names and were prompted to employ encryption programs in case of a search by law enforcement.
According to the Justice Department, Operation Delego is the largest prosecution of people involved in an online child exploitation enterprise. Thirteen of those charged have pleaded guilty and four people have received prison sentences of 20-30 years.
Efforts continue to identify and catch those defendants who are still at large, according to a Justice Department press release.
"I believe we're also sending a strong message to those who are willing to harm and exploit children, and who attempt to hide their activities from law enforcement," he said. "We will find you. We will stop you. And we will bring you to justice."
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