Feds Indict Hundreds Linked to World’s Largest Child-Porn Site

WASHINGTON – Hundreds of people in the United States and around the world were charged Wednesday in a bust of what the Department of Justice is calling the internet’s largest cache of child porn.

A screen shot of Welcome To Video, a child-porn website funded by bitcoin that authorities seized last year. (Image via Department of Justice)

Federal prosecutors say the website, Welcome To Video, was run by 23-year-old Jong Woo Son on the “darknet,” a section of the internet known for its more complicated infrastructure, user anonymity and lack of easy access.  

The indictment of Son in Washington is dated last year but only unsealed this morning, along with a parallel civil forfeiture action. In a press release, the Department of Justice notes that Son was arrested in South Korea on March 5, 2018, by authorities there working in cooperation with the U.S. agencies, IRS Criminal Investigation and Homeland Security Investigations, as well as the U.K.’s National Crime Agency.

The seizure last year of Son’s web server uncovered approximately 8 terabytes of videos depicting child sexual exploitation — considered one of the largest seizures of its kind, according to the Justice Department.

Among 250,000 unique videos, the government says 45% analyzed so far “contain new images that have not been previously known to exist.”

U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu notes that the website featured more than 250,000 videos of prepubescent teens and carried a warning on its landing page that instructed users specifically not to upload adult porn.  

Visitors to the child-porn website Welcome To Video have been greeted with this image since 2018 following its seizure by authorities as part of a child-porn sting. (Image via Department of Justice)

According to their press release, prosecutors were able to track down the location of the server through the darknet, a rare feat, while also tracing users’ bitcoin payments “by following the flow of funds on the blockchain.”

“This was one of the first times that law enforcement saw the use of cryptocurrency in trading child pornography,” Liu said in a statement.

Prosecutors also said the investigation revealed “more than one million bitcoin addresses, signifying that the website had capacity for at least one million users.

The focus shifted to tracking these users after the website was seized last year. Prosecutors say they conducted 92 searches of homes and businesses tied to U.S. suspects, with 53 arrests so far. Another 284 arrests have occurred in Brazil, Canada and beyond. 

“Notably, the operation is responsible for the rescue of at least 23 minor victims residing in the United States, Spain and the United Kingdom, who were being actively abused by the users of the site,” the press release states.

A list of the indicted Americans includes both those who have plead guilty and those who are still facing trial. Sentences range from one to 15 years with charges including money laundering and crimes related to child pornography.

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