New Zealand officials, acting on tips provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement, staged the arrests of the men, who allegedly purchased subscriptions to sites that offered child pornography through the now defunct Minsk-based Internet billing company.
Code-named "Falcon," the investigation has so far resulted in the seizure of 128 computers, more than 1,000 types of storage devices and more than 900 international arrests since RegPay executives were charged with money laundering and providing credit card billing for 50 child pornography sites in January 2004.
The arrests themselves are part of a larger trail that ASACP has been following since at least 2000, when it first began reporting the RegPay-owned “pedoworld” website to law enforcement officials.
A forensic investigation by the child advocacy group revealed the site’s ownership, and ASACP began reporting RegPay to the FBI in February 2003.
“The important aspect of this type of situation is to follow the money trail, to find the people and companies who are making money from either the billing or the distribution, which is exactly the type of information the ASACP site reviewer does during his forensic investigation,” Joan Irvine, executive director of ASACP, told XBiz. “Once these companies are removed from the process and the government authorities have their customer list, they do mass arrests on these pedophiles.”
The RegPay investigation originally resulted in the guilty pleas of a variety of individuals involved with helping RegPay process credit card transactions for its 50 websites.
With the successful prosecution of the individuals who operated RegPay, law enforcement agencies are now turning their eyes towards the individuals who purchased subscriptions on the sites, said the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Currently, 190 U.S. citizens have been arrested in addition to the 900 international arrests. Subscribers to the sites have run the gamut of professional occupations, ranging from teachers, school administrators and priests, to pediatricians, police officers and circus clowns.
Irvine said that the arrest of subscribers to the websites will probably lead to more of the underground child pornography racket coming to light.
“Most times the authorities will find a large amount of these horrific images and are led to additional distributors and other companies that are involved,” Irvine said.
The Falcon investigation is part of the larger Operation Predator, a national movement to jail sexual predators. Predator targets human traffickers, international sex tourists and child pornographers.