Friday, February 01, 2002

Police: Teen a child-porn Web master

Site contained sex-act photos using infants

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        INDEPENDENCE — A 15-year-old high school student built an Internet file-swapping service in which people all over the world traded kiddie porn with the ease music lovers downloaded songs from Napster, a computer forensics expert said.

        The Kenton County teen administered the database, maintained logons for frequent users and collected thousands of pornographic images — all without his parents' knowledge — from their home near Independence.

        Of nearly 60,000 images on the computer, most were pornographic, said computer forensics expert Jack Prindle of the Boone County Sheriff's Department.

        Six hundred ninety-two pictures were identified as “child porn,” with some of those images depicting abuse of infants and bestiality.

        The teen, whom authorities are not identifying, has been under house arrest and is charged with 692 felony counts of distributing matter portraying a sexual performance of a minor. He had no prior record, and police say they do not anticipate charging his parents with any crime.

        “This is certainly the worst example of child pornography I have been exposed to,” said Kenton County Attorney Garry Edmondson.

        Mr. Prindle, a captain with the Boone County Sheriff's Department, said, “Of all the computers I've analyzed, I could tell he was a sophisticated user.” The teen was operating a 60-gigabyte hard drive, the expert said.

        Sixty gigabytes is a large amount of storage space, but not unusual by current standards. New desktop personal computers are typically sold with 20- to 80-gigabyte hard drives.

        Mr. Edmondson, whose office will prosecute the case, wouldn't give more specific information concerning the teen.

        He said Web addresses to similar Internet sites are given out in chat rooms and posted on bulletin boards. Typically, a user will have to submit one picture in exchange for downloading two pictures. There is no evidence that the Kenton County teen made money from the site.

        The pornographic pictures are believed to have been taken from locations around the world, and are not of Greater Cincinnati children. Police stress that the teen is charged with disseminating child porn, not creating it.

        Mr. Edmondson said operators of such sites must be prosecuted to the fullest extent and that laws must be strengthened to curb the growing problem of child exploitation over the Internet. If the teen is convicted, Mr. Edmondson said he will ask the judge to sentence the juvenile to the maximum 45 days in jail. In addition, he will ask that the teen be taken from his parents and placed in a center for juvenile sex offenders.

        Local authorities say the arrest came after FBI agents investigating the pornography underworld discovered that a high-volume Internet child-pornography utility was originating from Kenton County.

        FBI officials declined comment on the task force, known as “Operation Innocent Images.'' The agency's Web page characterized the task force as a large-scale investigation targeting people who use the Internet to recruit minors into sex or distribute child pornography.

        “There are a lot more sites like this out there,” Mr. Edmondson said. “We have to get the word out to parents and responsible adults that this isn't the only one.”


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