NEWS

Project Hydra, Ontario Child Porn Investigation, Leads To 41 Arrests

05/06/2015 02:11 EDT | Updated 05/06/2016 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - Dozens of suspects, including some as young as 12, have been arrested in connection with a child pornography investigation that began in southern Ontario and spanned many countries.

Details of the investigation — known as Project Hydra — were revealed by York Regional Police on Wednesday.

"Our project began with one child victim in York Region and through investigation has grown into a significant international project with thousands of potential victims," said Insp. Tim Kelly. "The investigation is ongoing and continues to grow with every stone that is overturned."

Police said 41 suspects have been arrested and 110 charges have been laid in North America. The charges include possession, distribution and accessing of child pornography. Seventeen of the suspects were arrested in Canada.

The investigation began in April last year after the Ottawa-based National Child Exploitation Co-ordination Centre told York Regional Police about images of child pornography that were uploaded from a residence in York Region.

After executing a search warrant at the residence, investigators learned that a young person had allegedly uploaded the images.

"The young person advised investigators that they had been chatting, sending and receiving child pornography with unknown people throughout the world via popular social networking websites and private chat rooms," said Kelly.

"Investigators learned that the young person had been a victim of child exploitation and had been coerced into providing self exploited images to the unknown people online."

That finding opened the door to a much larger operation.

Police contacted owners of the website used by the young person and identified suspects around the world who were exchanging child pornography through the use of cloud storage.

York region police then collaborated with the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, INTERPOL, the RCMP, the OPP and various other forces across Canada, many of whom launched parallel investigations.

Part of the efforts of York Region police included the creation of 356 investigative packages — containing screenshots of online chats, child sexual abuse images and locations of suspects — which were distributed to police agencies in 17 different countries to allow forces to take action in their own jurisdiction.

Investigators found that the child pornography victims ranged in age from infants to teenagers and were male and female.

"The abusers appear to be people the victims trusted or online predators that coerced the victim into creating child sexual abuse materials," Kelly said. "Investigators are continuing to use all resources available to identify any further victims."

Nineteen victims have been identified so far, police said, emphasizing that the collaboration across multiple forces was a key element in the operation's progress.

"The success of Project Hydra in identifying such a large number of offenders involved in the victimization of children across the world could not have occurred without the co-operation of all agencies committed to the investigation of such offences against children — the most fragile victims of crime," Kelly said.