WASHINGTON — Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson, with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) and the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana today announced the complete results of one of the largest online child exploitation investigations in the history of ICE, involving victims in 39 states and five countries.
Fourteen men operating a child pornography website on the Darknet's Onion Router, also known as Tor, have been arrested and charged as part of a conspiracy to operate a child exploitation enterprise, following an extensive international investigation by ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and USPIS. Eleven have been federally charged in the Eastern District of Louisiana and three in other districts. All are in federal custody.
"Every day the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security work to keep our nation safe and a major part of that effort is the work of ICE Homeland Security Investigations, one of the largest investigative agencies with jurisdiction over a wide range of crimes spanning the U.S. and the entire globe," said Secretary Johnson. "I am proud of the work done by the HSI special agents to not only detect this operation and arrest those involved in the conspiracy, but also their efforts to identify and bring support to the many young victims and their families."
So far, investigators have identified 251 minor 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 HSI victim assistance specialists.
"These indictments represent a strong coordinated strike – by Homeland Security, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and several U. S. Attorney's Offices around the country – against child pornography and those who allegedly seek to harm our most vulnerable citizens, our young children," stated U. S. Attorney Kenneth Allen Polite, Jr.
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 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 prioritize the arrest of child predators, we cannot arrest our way out of this problem: education is the key to prevention."
"Protecting children from crimes of sexual abuse and exploitation is a priority for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service," stated Gerald O'Farrell, inspector in charge of Criminal Investigations, National Headquarters. "I'm proud of the work of the Postal Inspection Service and our investigative partners to bring child predators to justice. U.S. Postal inspectors have investigated these crimes for more than a century. While the predators' use of sophisticated technology has evolved, the core harm has not changed: a child's lost innocence. We will not lose sight of this, and remain steadfast in our efforts to investigate, apprehend, and assist in the prosecution of those who seek to exploit children via the U.S. mail."
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.
The investigation was dubbed ‘Operation Round Table' and began with the arrest of Jonathan Johnson by USPIS and HSI. Further computer forensic analysis by HSI revealed Jonathan Johnson to be the creator and administrator of the underground website. Ten additional individuals have been arrested and charged in the Eastern District of Louisiana as the primary operators, contributors and producers of material for the child exploitation enterprise:
- Daniel Nolan Devor, 39, of Brunswick, Ga., charged with conspiracy to produce child pornography, distribution of child pornography and receipt of materials involving the sexual exploitation of minors
- John C. Foster, 44 of Tipp City, Ohio, charged with conspiracy to produce child pornography, distribution of child pornography, and receipt of materials involving the sexual exploitation of minors
- Aung Gaw aka Michael Gaw, 25, of Fremont, Calif., charged with receipt of child pornography
- Vittorio Francesco Gonzalez-Castillo, 26, of Tucson, Ariz., charged with conspiracy to produce child pornography
- Sean Jabbar, 32, of Minneapolis, Minn., charged with receipt of child pornography
- Christopher Jamieson, 30, of Douglassville, Ga., charged with receipt of child pornography
- Andrew Korpal, 29, of Granger, Ind., charged with receipt of child pornography
- Nicholas Saine, 27, of Seattle, Wash., charged with receipt of child pornography
- Christopher Schwab, 25 of New Orleans, charged with production of child pornography, distribution of child pornography, and receipt of child pornography
- Stanley Zdon, III, 27, of Tuckerton, N.J., charged with conspiracy to produce child pornography
Roy Naim, 30, of Brooklyn, N.Y., was charged in the Eastern District of New York with conspiracy to produce child pornography, attempted sexual exploitation of a child, receipt of child pornography, and possession of child pornography. Minh Vi Thong, 30, of Denver, Colo., was charged in the District of Colorado with production of child pornography, distribution of child pornography, and possession of child pornography. Michael Eales, 24, of Westby, Wis., was charged in the Western District of Wisconsin with production of child pornography. He was sentenced Oct. 29, 2013, to serve two concurrent 30-year terms in federal prison, followed by a lifetime of supervised release, for manufacturing child pornography.
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 analyze the more than 40 terabytes of data seized.
The prosecution of this case in the Eastern District of Louisiana is being handled by Fraud Unit Chief and Project Safe Childhood Coordinator, Assistant U. S. Attorney Brian M. Klebba.
Substantial assistance in this ongoing case is being provided by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the U.S. Department of Justice's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Operation Round Table was conducted as part of HSI's Operation Predator to identify and rescue victims of online sexual exploitation and to arrest their abusers as well as others who own, trade and produce images of child pornography.
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. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. Tips can also be made through HSI's Operation Predator smartphone app, which can be downloaded at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/operation-predator/id695130859?mt=8. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.