WASHINGTON (AP) — Fourteen men were charged with operating an online child exploitation network that investigators said preyed upon hundreds of boys across the United States and overseas, authorities announced Tuesday.
Law enforcement officials said the arrests were part of a worrisome trend in which children are being enticed by adults to post sexually explicit images of themselves that are then shared online. In this case, authorities said, users of an underground network posed online as girls to coerce boys into sharing with them child pornography images.
"These alleged perpetrators preyed upon the most innocent, most vulnerable members of our society with no regard to the immediate or lasting harm they caused to their victims and their families," Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said at a news conference.
The investigation, called "Operation Round Table," was led by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and federal authorities in Louisiana, where the alleged leader of the operation lives.
The roughly 250 victims were spread across 39 states and five other countries — Australia, Belgium, Britain, Canada and New Zealand. Most were boys between 13 and 15. Two victims were 3 or younger, authorities said.
The pornographic images were shared on an underground website on the Tor network, an online anonymity network that masks the location of servers and conceals an Internet user's location. The subscription-based website operated from about June 2012 until June 2013, had more than 27,000 members and shared more than 2,000 webcam-captured videos, mostly of young boys, authorities said.
Continue reading this story on the...