It's a sordid tale. Individuals from across the globe molesting children, producing child pornography, trading sexual images and videos of minors being raped and abused, and chatting online about molesting them.
In Boston, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents embarked on an investigation into this network of pedophiles, dubbed Operation Holitna. Their first target, Robert Diduca, was arrested on production of child pornography charges June 2011. He was later convicted and, in June 2012, sentenced to 18 years in prison for his crimes.
Forensic analysis of Diduca's computer led HSI special agents to the Netherlands, where a Dutch national was arrested and charged with producing, distributing and possessing child pornography, as well as sexually assaulting 87 minors. From there, the network unraveled, revealing child predators in multiple states, including Florida.
Ronald Brown, 57, of Largo, Fla., pleaded guilty to three counts of possession of child pornography and five counts of receipt of child pornography, March 25. He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison for each possession count and between five and 20 years in federal prison for each receipt offense.
Brown was arrested at his home July 2012.
Brown is the second Tampa Bay resident to plead guilty to charges resulting from Operation Holitna. Joshua Taylor, 29, of St. Petersburg, pleaded guilty to distributing child pornography in May. In September, he was sentenced to more than 17 years in federal prison.
To date, 163 children have been rescued and 51 predators arrested worldwide as a result of Operation Holitna.