TORONTO - Two Canadians are among 72 people who have been charged with participating in an international child pornography network, U.S. justice department officials said Wednesday.
U.S. prosecutors allege the individuals used an online bulletin board called Dreamboard to trade tens of thousands of images and videos of sexually abused children, some of them infants.
The 20-month law enforcement investigation called Operation Delego targeted more than 600 Dreamboard members around the world for allegedly participating in the private, members-only Internet club created to promote pedophilia.
"Two individuals were arrested in Canada as a part of Operation Delego," justice department spokeswoman Alisa Finelli said in an email to The Canadian Press.
She identified the Canadians as Brandon William Lane, who was using the online name BossHiaka, and Paul Graham Fry, whose online name was Lofty. Finelli did not say when or where in Canada they were arrested.
According to a U.S. indictment released Wednesday, Lane and Fry are charged with engaging in a child exploitation enterprise, conspiracy to advertise the distribution of child pornography, and conspiracy to distribute child pornography.
Numerous participants in the network sexually abused children ages 12 and under, produced images and video of the abuse and then shared it with other club members, according to court papers released in the case.
At a news conference in Washington, Attorney General Eric Holder called the criminal activity a "nightmare" for the children and said that some of the children featured in the images and videos were just infants.
In many cases, the children being victimized were in obvious, and intentional pain — even in distress and crying, just as the rules for one area of the bulletin board mandated, the attorney general said.
Fifteen of the Dreamboard participants who were arrested personally created child pornography, according to the Justice Department.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the amount of child porn swapped by participants in the network was massive, the equivalent to 16,000 DVDs.
Of the 72 people charged, 43 have been arrested in the United States, and nine in other countries, including Canada. Another 20 are known to authorities only by their Internet names and remain at large.
To conceal their conduct, members used screen names rather than actual names and accessed the bulletin board via proxy servers, with Internet traffic routed through other computers to disguise a user's location, according to the court papers.
Participants were required to continually upload images of child sexual abuse to maintain their membership.
Participants who molested children and created new images of child pornography were placed in a "Super VIP" category that gave them access to the entire quantity of child porn on the bulletin board, the court papers stated.
A "Super Hardcore" section of the bulletin board was limited to posts showing adults having violent sexual intercourse with "very young kids" subjected to physical and sexual abuse.
All 72 defendants are charged with conspiring to advertise and distribute child pornography, and 50 of them are also charged with engaging in a child pornography enterprise. Thirteen of the 52 defendants who have been arrested have pleaded guilty in the conspiracy. Of the four who have been sentenced, the least amount of prison time was 20 years behind bars and the most was 30 years.
With files from The Associated Press.