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Hundreds Arrested Around The World In Connection To Child Porn Site Using Bitcoin

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Hundreds of people around the world have been arrested in connection to the largest-ever online child sexual exploitation market funded by bitcoin, the Justice Department announced Wednesday.

South Korean national Jong Woo Son, 23, was indicted on nine counts by a Washington, D.C., federal court and is currently serving time in South Korea for operating the child porn website called Welcome to Video, the Justice Department press release reads.

Another 337 individuals ranging in age from 22 to 70 and residing in 23 states and Washington, D.C., as well as 12 other countries, have been arrested and charged for using site that used advanced technology to hide user identities, according to the release.

“Sadly, advances in technology have enabled child predators to hide behind the dark web and cryptocurrency to further their criminal activity,” HSI Acting Executive Associate Director Alysa Erichs said in a statement. “However, today’s indictment sends a strong message to criminals that no matter how sophisticated the technology or how widespread the network, child exploitation will not be tolerated in the United States.”

Justice Department Criminal Division Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski said the Trump administration will not allow criminals to hide behind the internet as a shield.

“Darknet sites that profit from the sexual exploitation of children are among the most vile and reprehensible forms of criminal behavior,” Benczkowski said in a statement.

“This [a]dministration will not allow child predators to use lawless online spaces as a shield. Today’s announcement demonstrates that the Department of Justice remains firmly committed to working closely with our partners in South Korea and around the world to rescue child victims and bring to justice the perpetrators of these abhorrent crimes,” he continued.

The website, based in South Korea, sold 250,000 child sexual abuse videos using bitcoin, according to IRS-CI Chief Don Fort. (RELATED: Decriminalizing The Sex Trade In DC Empowers Pimps And Endangers Women Of Color, Activists Say)

“Through the sophisticated tracing of bitcoin transactions, IRS-CI special agents were able to determine the location of the Darknet server, identify the administrator of the website and ultimately track down the website server’s physical location in South Korea,” IRS-CI Chief Don Fort said in a statement.

“This large-scale criminal enterprise that endangered the safety of children around the world is no more. Regardless of the illicit scheme, and whether the proceeds are virtual or tangible, we will continue to work with our federal and international partners to track down these disgusting organizations and bring them to justice,” Fort continued.

Of the 250,000 unique videos that are now being analyzed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), 45% contained new images that authorities did not know existed, according to the Justice Department release.

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