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May 19, 2022Washington, DC, United StatesChild Exploitation

HSI, Brazil law enforcement partners take down international child exploitation ring

HSI investigative authority prevents criminal organization from victimizing more children

WASHINGTON — Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), in collaboration with Brazil’s Federal Police (PF), dismantled a criminal network April 28, that was actively involved in the production and sale of illicit imagery of children. HSI Brazil, receiving information from the PF’s Child Pornography/Exploitation and Hate Crimes Unit in May 2020, coordinated efforts targeting subscribers of the website in the United States and other countries. The Brazil-based ‘child modeling’ website is alleged to contain child exploitation material widely distributed via the dark web.

“Predators like this, who seek to prey upon and harm children and hide must be identified, apprehended, and brought to justice. HSI’s investigative authorities are uniquely positioned to target those criminals who hide between international boundaries,” said HSI Brazil Attaché Eric Cardiel. “The success of this operation demonstrates two critical components of law enforcement – cooperation and partnership. We are thankful for our Brazilian partners extraordinary efforts and trust – we will continue to expand our collaborative missions that disrupt and dismantle transnational criminal threats.”

PF launched Operation Abusou as part of a coordinated effort to take down the organization propagating the commercialization of photos and videos of adolescents, mainly Brazilians, in sensual and erotic poses, aimed at child sexual exploitation websites located abroad. More than 120 victims between the ages of four and 18 have been identified. Roughly 200,000 image and video files are being analyzed by law enforcement officials. This investigation included international collaboration from Interpol and the U.S. government.

The 1st Federal Court of Itajaí, in Santa Catarina, authorized the issuance of 10 search and seizure warrants and at least one arrest warrant against targets of the operation. According to reports, since 2001, victims were filmed and photographed in bathing suits and undergarments, under the promise that materials would be used to manage modeling careers in fashion and advertising, claiming that photos/videos were a requirement of companies seeking talent.

HSI is a directorate of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 Special Agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.