Arrests Break Up Major Website That Peddled Child Pornography

More than a dozen men have been arrested and charged with operating a website that distributed more than 2,000 videos of young boys engaging in sexually explicit conduct, U.S. law enforcement officials said today.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said at a news conference today in Washington that 14 men were arrested in connection with the website, which he called “one of the largest known online child exploitation operations in history.”

The subscription-based underground website had more than 27,000 members who were required to create accounts before being permitted to download files, comment on videos or exchange messages, according to court papers.

“These alleged perpetrators preyed upon the most innocent and most vulnerable members of our society with no regard for the immediate and lasting harm they caused the victims and their families,” Johnson said.

The investigation found 251 victims in 39 states and five foreign countries, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement. Most of the victims were aged 13 to 15, and at least two were younger than 3.

Investigators with ICE and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service began making arrests in June. More are expected, Johnson said.

The man authorities identified as the website’s primary administrator, Jonathan Johnson, 27, of Abita Springs, Louisiana, was arrested on June 13. He was charged last month with engaging in a child exploitation enterprise. The charges came in a “criminal information,” which can only be filed with a defendant’s consent and signals a plea deal has been reached. A plea hearing has been set for March 27 in federal court in New Orleans, court records show. Johnson faces between 20 years to life in prison, ICE officials said in the statement.

Johnson’s attorney, Samuel John Scillanti Jr., couldn’t be reached for comment by telephone and e-mail.

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