After almost two years of investigations, Operation Delego arrested 72 people, including Canadians, involved in an international child porn ring.
Today Attorney General Eric Holder and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the unsealing of three indictments and one complaint charging the 72 individuals who are accused of being in the international child porn ring.
Launched in December 2009 Operation Delego investigated the ring that encouraged the sexual abuse of very young children using an environment that was designed to be hidden from law enforcement.
The investigation targeted the more than 600 members of an online bulletin board called Dreamboard. Members from around the world were part of the private Internet club that promoted pedophilia.
“The members of this criminal network shared a demented dream to create the preeminent online community for the promotion of child sexual exploitation but for the children they victimized, this was nothing short of a nightmare,” said Attorney General Holder in an official statement. “This operation marks another important step forward in our work to protect children across - and beyond - this country. Our nation’s fight to protect the rights, interests, and safety of children goes on, and it will continue to be a top priority of this Justice Department.”
Law enforcement allege that numerous participants produced images and video of child under the age of 12 who were sexually abused sharing it with other club members.
Some of those featured on the site were just infants, according to Attorney General Eric Holder, calling the criminal activity a “nightmare” for the children.”
“The dismantling of Dreamboard is another stark warning to would-be child predators who think they can trade in child pornography and commit heinous acts against innocent children while hiding behind pseudonyms and other technological tricks,” said ICE Director John Morton. “As these criminals try new techniques to digitally erase their trail, ICE's Homeland Security Investigations along with our U.S. and international law enforcement partners continue to upgrade our strategies and technology to track down the depraved individuals who bring suffering to children.”
According to court documents members of Dreamboard had to upload child pornography of children younger than 12 when they applied for membership. Once they are given access they were required to continue those uploads to remain a member. The members were divided into groups based on their ranking and status. The highest levels were called "Super VIP." To gain that ranking they had to produce images of molesting children and sharing those images to the board administrators.
Dreamboard's rules of conduct were printed in English, Russian, Japanese and Spanish.
The board had different categories including "Super Hardcore" which showed violent sexual acts with very young children. The children in these images were in obvious distress or crying.
Fifty of those arrested were charged in engaging in a child pornography enterprise in addition to the charge of conspiring to advertise and distribute child pornography that all arrested are facing.
At this time 20 of the 72 charged individuals remain at large, known only by their online names.
Four of the 13 individuals who have pleaded guilty for their roles in the conspiracy have been sentenced to prison. On May 10, 2011, Timothy Lee Gentry, 33, of Burlington, Ky., was sentenced to 25 years in prison. On May 31, 2011, Michael Biggs, 32, of Orlando, Fla., was sentenced to 20 years in prison. On June 22, 2011, Michael Childs, 49, of Huntsville, Ala., was sentenced to 30 years in prison. On July 14, 2011, Charles Christian, 49, of Tilton, Ill., was sentenced to more than 22 years in prison. Each defendant also received a lifetime of supervised release following his release from prison as part of their sentence.
Arrests have been made in 14 countries, the United States, Canada, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Germany, Hungary, Kenya, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Qatar, Serbia, Sweden and Switzerland. Some of the arrests were on local charges.