A global investigation into a Canadian child porn Web site had led to the arrest of 341 people including teachers, doctors and police officers, and the rescue of 386 sexually abused children, police said.
Those arrested include six law enforcement officials, nine religious leaders, 40 school teachers, three foster parents, 32 children volunteers and nine doctors and nurses, Toronto police said on Thursday.
Undercover officers made contact in October 2010 with a man sharing “very graphic images of young children being sexually abused,” Inspector Joanna Beaven-Desjardins, head of the Toronto police’s Sex Crimes Unit, told a press conference.
They were able to trace his Internet connection to a Toronto address.
Their investigation led to a company believed to be producing and distributing child exploitation videos and images over the Internet.
“The company operated a Web site — www.azovfilms.com — where customers from around the world placed orders to have movies sent to them through the mail or Internet,” Beaven-Desjardins said.
The 42-year-old suspect’s home and business were raided seven months later and he was charged with operating a Web site that sold and distributed child pornography.
Police said the man “paid various people to film children for the purpose of creating movies for sale on his Web site.”
The Canadian distributor’s Web site meanwhile allegedly earned him C$4 million (US$3.82 million) over several years.
Authorities said they seized more than 45 terabytes of data, including hundreds of thousands of images and videos detailing “horrific” sexual acts against children as young as five.
Police subsequently tracked down the Web site’s customers around the world.
The US Postal Inspection Service took part in the probe, as did authorities in Sweden, Spain, Australia, South Africa, Hong Kong and other countries.
US Postal Inspection Service acting Deputy Chief Inspector Gerald O’Farrell said those convicted in the case included an attorney and youth baseball coach in Washington state who produced more than 500 videos of children he sexually molested.
Also under arrest was a Georgia school employee who received child pornography and admitted to placing a hidden video camera in students’ restrooms in an effort to film their genitals.
A preschool teacher who produced child pornography while he was employed in Japan and a Texas police sergeant who produced a video of a child involved in sexually explicit conduct, were also among those arrested.
Australian police said yesterday that 65 of the arrests were made in that country, including a priest and two teachers. Six children were rescued.
Australian authorities began investigating last year, eventually arresting suspects aged between 25 and 72 whom police said are from all walks of life.
They have been charged with a range of offenses, including accessing, possessing, producing and distributing online child exploitation material.
“This global investigation has disrupted a widespread international network of suspects, in a powerful demonstration of law enforcement working together to protect children around the world,” Australian Federal Police manager of cybercrime operations Commander Glen McEwen said.