Feds Bust Online Child-Porn Ring Preying on Hundreds of Young Boys

By Susan Jones | March 19, 2014 | 6:53am EDT

ICE Deputy Director Daniel Ragsdale, left, along with CBP Deputy Commissioner Thomas Winkowski and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, announced a major online child-porn bust in Washington, Tuesday, March 18, 2014.  (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - The U.S. government has broken up "one of the largest known, online child-exploitation operations in history," Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced on Tuesday.

He said the subscription-based website had more than 27,000 members involved in producing and distributing child pornography on a massive scale. And of the 250 victims identified so far, the majority were boys between the ages of 13 and 15; two victims were under the age of three.

"A very small percentage of them were females," Johnson said. "I believe it's -- three to four of them were, in fact, females."

The 250 victims identified so far come from 39 states and five countries, and the process of finding more victims, and identifying the suspects, is continuing.

Johnson described child exploitation as a "shockingly common crime, especially online."

One of the 14 suspects arrested so far is the administrator of the website, identified as Jonathan Johnson of Louisiana.

Kenneth Polite, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, said his office, on Feb. 20, charged Johnson with running child pornography websites out of his home.

"Johnson frequently utilized and encouraged other members and uploaders to access popular social networking sites to search for and then locate unsuspecting minor boys for the purpose of having them create sexually explicit videos," he said. Johnson and his fellow pornographer "created fake female internet personas in order to entice and initiate online communications with these young boys."

"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 told the news conference.

Daniel Ragsdale, the deputy director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), said his agency is developing new and effective ways of combating child exploitation.

"In October 2013, ICE developed the first Operation Predator app for the iPhone. Child predators are having a harder time finding, and are hiding from anyone who has an iPhone who can access photos of suspects and share this information with law enforcement. ICE will soon have an updated version of this app ready for downloading."

Ragsdale said education is the key to prevention, and he mentioned ICE's iGuardian initiative as a way for children, teens, parents and teacher to learn how to stay safe online.

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