Federal authorities say two Florida men were part of an international child porn website that housed thousands of videos.
“Welcome To Video,” a child-sex exploitation online market, had over 250,000 videos, 45 percent of which had contained new images that authorities didn’t know existed, the U.S. Department of Justice said.
The site boasted over 1 million downloads of child porn by users, authorities said. The videos showed prepubescent children, infants and toddlers engaging in sexual activity.
Federal authorities announced this week they had arrested 337 users living in 24 states and 11 countries.
Among those arrested were two Florida men, Jack Dove III and Michael White.
Dove, a 37-year-old Lakeland man, is facing charges of knowingly receiving and possessing visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
White, a 39-year-old Miami Beach man, is facing charges of coercion and enticement.
Jong Woo Son, 23, a South Korean national, was the creator and operator of the Darknet market site. On March 5, 2018, agents from the United States, United Kingdom and Korean National police arrested Son and seized the server he used to operate the site.
The agents seized about eight terabytes of child sexual exploitation videos, which authorities say is one of the largest seizures of its kind. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is analyzing the images.
The website offered videos for sale using the cryptocurrency bitcoin. The website is among the first to monetize child-porn videos using bitcoin, authorities said. An analysis of the server revealed the website had more than 1 million bitcoin addresses, meaning that the website had the capacity for at least 1 million users.
The videos were sold for 7,300 bitcoin, or more than $730,000, U.S. authorities said.
“Darknet sites that profit from the sexual exploitation of children are among the most vile and reprehensible forms of criminal behavior,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division in a statement. “This Administration will not allow child predators to use lawless online spaces as a shield.”
The operation has resulted in searches of homes and businesses of about 92 people in the United States, and rescued least 23 minors living in the U.S., Spain and the United Kingdom, who were being abused by the site’s users, authorities said.
“Children around the world are safer because of the actions taken by U.S. and foreign law enforcement to prosecute this case and recover funds for victims,” said U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu of Washington. “We will continue to pursue such criminals on and off the Darknet in the United States and abroad, to ensure they receive the punishment their terrible crimes deserve.”