WASHINGTON – The United States and 10 other countries executed search warrants on people suspected of exchanging child pornography over the Internet, the Customs Service announced Wednesday.
In the United States, the targets of the investigation included a U.S. military pilot, a registered nurse, a network administration for a publishing company and an artist, Customs said. Search warrants involving eight people were executed in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Tennessee, Nevada, Oregon and Alaska.
From government said that three of the individuals being targeted in the investigation had been members of the wonderland child pornography ring that was broken up in 1998.
At the same time, search warrants were issued by the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Japan, Finland, Austria and Sweden, Customs said.
The investigation, dubbed Operation Artus, began in November 2001, when agents of the German National Police, using evidence gathered from a search warrant, discovered that a German man had been exchanging child pornography over the Internet, Customs said. The man provided nicknames of some members of a group that German authorities believed were involved in the exchange of child pornography.
As a result of the German investigation, law enforcement authorities were able to identify eight people in the United States that the U.S. government believes are involved in the child pornography ring, Customs said. Other people outside the United States were also being targeted by other countries for their alleged involvement in the ring.
Customs said that "a common aim of members was to find and exchange child pornography in DVD quality movie file format. As a requirement, members had to offer new child pornography material from time to time to remain part of the group," Customs said.
Customs Commissioner Robert Bonner said the investigation "is yet another example of how important international cooperation is to solving these types of cases."
The action comes after the FBI this week said it expects to arrest at least 50 more people by week's end as it busts up an Internet child-pornography ring that allegedly included two Catholic priests and six other members of the clergy.
The agency said Monday its "Operation Candyman" sweep already had resulted in criminal charges against more than 89 people in 26 states. The effort targeted members of three Internet discussion groups on Yahoo Inc.'s Web site, including one called "Candyman," apparently named after a song in the 1971 children's movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.