337 People Charged in Connection With Dark Web Child Porn Website

Blue Computer Hack

Federal authorities announced Wednesday that they had busted a massive child porn website containing images and videos of adults abusing children as young as 2-years-old, arresting more than 300 people worldwide and charging them with operating or using a dark web sexual exploration site, officials with the U.S. Department of Justice said Wednesday.

According to the indictment, law enforcement agencies from around the world collaborated in shutting down the website, with agents from the IRS-CI, HSI, National Crime Angency in the United Kingdom, and the Korean National Police in South Korea all working together. The nine-count indictment says 337 people in 24 U.S. states and 11 countries have been arrested and charged with using the site.

South Korean authorities arrested Jong Woo Son, 23, a South Korean National in 2018, for running the 'Welcome to Video' site that explicitly advertised child sexual exploitation videos available for download for members of the site.

Agents seized approximately eight terabytes of child porn from the server Son used to operate the Darknet market, which allowed viewers to search videos by age and terms like 'preteen hardcore,' and 'pedophile.' Users could view those videos by paying for the service using bitcoin, which is difficult, but not impossible, for law enforcement to trace. Users could also 'earn' points by uploading their own videos to the site.

"In fact, the site itself boasted over one million downloads of child exploitation videos by users. Each user received a unique bitcoin address when the user created an account on the website," the press release from the Justice Department stated.

Officials say Wednesday's seizure is the largest of its kind. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Chidren (NCMEC) analyzed the server and found it stored more than 250,000 unique videos, with 45% of the videos on the site containing new images that were previously unknown to NCMEC.

“Darknet sites that profit from the sexual exploitation of children are among the most vile and reprehensible forms of criminal behavior,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “This Administration will not allow child predators to use lawless online spaces as a shield. Today’s announcement demonstrates that the Department of Justice remains firmly committed to working closely with our partners in South Korea and around the world to rescue child victims and bring to justice the perpetrators of these abhorrent crimes.”

Twenty-three young victims who were being actively abused by the site's users, were also rescued in the U.S., Spain and the United Kingdom, authorities said.

“Children around the world are safer because of the actions taken by U.S. and foreign law enforcement to prosecute this case and recover funds for victims,” said U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu. “We will continue to pursue such criminals on and off the darknet in the United States and abroad, to ensure they receive the punishment their terrible crimes deserve.”

The Department of Justice said two users of the site took their own lives after a search warrant was executed at their home.

Federal authorities also announced their intention to seize the images and any proceeds and property that has been linked to the operation.

Photo: Getty Images

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