Massive international child porn ring broken up

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wwltv.com

Posted on March 18, 2014 at 10:21 PM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 18 at 10:40 PM

Dennis Woltering / Eyewitness News
Email: dwoltering@wwltv.com | Twitter: @dwoltering

NEW ORLEANS -- A massive child pornography investigation has led to the arrest of dozens of accused predators across the country, including a New Orleans man and the alleged mastermind operating from Abita Springs.

Investigators say the sexual exploitation involves tens of thousands of predators and hundreds of underage boys.

According to court records just unsealed this week, 27-year-old Jonathan Scott Johnson ran two secret, subscriber-only web sites out of the home he shared with his parents in Abita Springs.

Investigators call it "a child exploitation enterprise" with more than 27,000 members and an "unprecedented" number of victims -- 251 children from 39 states and five foreign countries. All but eight of the victims were teenage boys.

So far, 160 victims have been identified and/or rescued, according to U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite.

“That is a process that is certainly underway both within the United States as well as abroad,” Polite said. "And that work will certainly continue as we identify additional potential victims.”

According to investigators, most of the victims were between the ages of 13 and 15. But two were under the age of three.

And the enterprise allegedly tutored subscribers on how to pose as teenage girls to persuade unsuspecting teen boys to provide pornographic content.

“Getting these children to take egregious pictures, exploitative pictures from their home and send those images and videos to the predators,” said Patrick Redling, Unit Chief of the Child Exploitation Investigations Unit (CEIU).

The enterprise gathered some 2,000 videos, plus an astonishing number of photos.

“It was 40 terabytes. It was five times the size of all the information stored by the Library of Congress,” said Dan Ragsdale, deputy director for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

A grand jury indicted Johnson on 14 counts last June. But the proceedings remained sealed as investigators tracked down victims and predators.

Dozens of other people have been arrested in the case, including 25-year old Christopher Schwab of New Orleans, accused of producing several explicit videos uploaded online.

Schwab has allegedly admitted performing a sex act on one minor, and court records indicate he will plead guilty next month.

“In terms of the other 27,000 members of this, this enterprise that Mr. Johnson operated ... our investigation certainly continues," Polite said. "It is ongoing."

Johnson has been in federal custody since his arrest last June.

If convicted, he faces 20 years to life in prison.

 

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