Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Large-Scale FBI Dark Web Child Porn Investigation Sees Progress, 1 Pleads Guilty

On May 20, DeepDotWeb reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested over 900 user of PlayPen, a darknet child pornography marketplace, after the initial arrest of its administrators and creators.

This week, Arthur Cummings, one of the 900 users of PlayPen, pleaded guilty to his charges of child pornography possession at the US District court in Worcester and was set to be sentenced on July 11. Cummings will be sentenced to a minimum of five years and up to 20 in prison.

The covert investigative program of the FBI called “Pacifier” had run into major controversies and legal hurdles in the past due to the usage of a Network Investigative Technique (NIT) without obtaining specific warrants. Previously, DeepDotWeb reported that Judge David Alan Ezra found the FBI in violation of Rule 41(B), for the ambiguous issuance of NIT. Magistrate Judge Paul Cleary also stated that the NIT used by the FBI to unmask dark web criminals wasn’t authorized.

“This Court finds that the NIT (network investigative technique) warrant was not authorized by any of the applicable provisions of Rule 41. The warrant is void ab initio, suppression is warranted and the good-faith exception is inapplicable,” said Cleary.

Yet, FBI officials including special agent Dan Alfin, one of the leading investigators of Pacifier, said on May 5 that the FBI intends to pursue its investigation into child pornography creators and distributors. Although it has transformed into a cat-and-mouse game, Alfin emphasized that the FBI will continue to indict and prosecute cases related to Pacifier and child pornography charges.

Alfin stated:

“Members of his enterprise who were raping children, who were producing child pornography all around the world—those cases continue to be indicted and prosecuted. It’s ongoing and we continue to address the threat to the best of our abilities. It’s the same with any criminal violation: As they get smarter, we adapt, we find them. It’s a cat-and-mouse game, except it’s not a game. Kids are being abused, and it’s our job to stop that.”

So far, according to the infographic provided by the FBI, 25 child pornography producers in the US were prosecuted, 51 US-based abusers were prosecuted and most importantly, 296 sexually abused children were rescued internationally.

While more than 500 arrests have been made in regard to the Pacifier investigation and PlayPen case, it is still unclear how many of those suspects will be prosecuted and sentenced, due to the remaining controversy surrounding the FBI’s use of NIT. If the FBI finds a way to justify its use of NIT to unravel dark web criminals, it would be possible for the law enforcement firm to prosecute more suspects in the upcoming months.

Apart from the Pacifier investigation, the FBI is leading multiple investigations to crackdown dark web criminals. On May 3, the FBI announced the that Roy Harvender Jr was sentenced to 13 years in prison for distributing child pornography on Website 19, a darknet marketplace for child pornography distributors and criminals.

“Roy Harvender Jr., 59, pleaded guilty on Oct. 5, 2016, before U.S. District Court Judge Leonard P. Stark of the District of Delaware to one count of distribution of child pornography for his membership in a website dedicated to the sexual exploitation of children. Judge Stark also ordered Harvender to serve 10 years of supervised release and to pay $5,000 in restitution to each of his victims,” read a statement filed by the US Department of Justice.

The FBI intends to continue leading investigations into illicit operations on the darknet with covert programs and undercover activities.

DEMI KESELAMATAN KITA