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Authorities break up international pedophile ring
Child abuse investigators in Britain, the United States and Australia have dismantled an organized crime group that live-streamed child sexual abuse to order from the Philippines.
The international operation was led by Britain’s National Crime Agency with a special task force called "Operation Endeavor" set up to address child exploitation on an international level.
The investigation began after a routine visit to Timothy Ford, a registered sex offender in Britain. Police found a number of indecent videos on his computer and contacted child abuse investigators, touching off a global investigation beginning in 2012 and resulted in 15 children aged between 6 and 15 being safeguarded from abuse.
The international investigation that broke up the ring, resulting in 29 arrests of people in 12 countries who had paid to watch the abuse. Police describe the use of webcams to stream live child abuse — especially from developing countries — as a “significant and emerging threat.”
The investigation — codenamed Operation Endeavour — identified 733 suspects and has resulted in some convictions, including Ford, who was sentenced in March to 8 ½ years in prison. The agency said Ford paid to watch the live abuse and had planned to move to the Philippines to set up an internet cafe.
Another customer, Thomas Owen, who was sentenced in July to seven years in prison had discussed traveling to the Philippines together. Ford, who uses a wheelchair, "suggested that Owen could act as his carer so they could travel to the Philippines together in an attempt to avoid detection," police said.
“This investigation has identified some extremely dangerous child sexual offenders who believed paying for children to be abused to order was something they could get away with,” said Andy Baker, the deputy director of the agency’s command for child protection.
The arrests underscored the well-established problem of cybercrime rings victimizing children in impoverished communities. Impoverished parents allow their children to be sexually abused and watched by paying foreigners via the internet in exchange for $100 to $200.
Stephanie McCourt, of the UK's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center, which is now part of the NCA, said that pedophiles should know that the Internet is not a "safe place for them. They must also not be under the mistaken impression that this is a crime which carries no guilt because it happens on the other side of the world," she said. "It is just as bad, just as harmful as though it was happening to the children right here in the U.K."
Community support to eradicate the problem is crucial because the crime often is concealed in the privacy of homes away from the attention of authorities, said Mayor Michael Rama of Cebu city in the central Philippines, a region where some of the abuses have been reported.
"When you have some poverty, the availability of information and technology and the attraction for easy money, these abuses happen," Rama said "City hall can fight this but if the villages don't get involved, what's going to happen?"
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