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NY, CT Residents Among Hundreds Charged In Takedown Of Largest Darknet Child Porn Website

Suspects from Connecticut and New York are among those charged in the largest Darknet child pornography bust.
Suspects from Connecticut and New York are among those charged in the largest Darknet child pornography bust. Photo Credit:

Men from Connecticut and New York are among those charged in the takedown of the largest Darknet child pornography website.

Jong Woo Son, 23, a South Korean national, was indicted this week for his operation of Welcome To Video, the largest child exploitation market by volume of content, officials said. Son has also been charged and convicted in South Korea and is currently in custody serving his sentence in South Korea.

An additional 337 site users residing in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington State and Washington, D.C. as well as the United Kingdom, South Korea, Germany, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the Czech Republic, Canada, Ireland, Spain, Brazil and Australia were also arrested and charged.

Area residents charged include:

  • Vincent Galarzo, 28, of Glendale, Queens, was arrested and charged in the District of Columbia with conspiracy to distribute child pornography;
  • Mark Lindsay Rohrer, 38, of West Hartford, Connecticut, pleaded guilty in the District of Connecticut to receipt of child pornography and was sentenced to serve 60 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release;

Others charged:

  • Charles Wunderlich, 34, of Hot Springs, California, was charged in the District of Columbia with conspiracy to distribute child pornography;
  • Brian James LaPrath, 34, of San Diego, California, was arrested in the District of Columbia, for international money laundering; and was sentenced to serve 18 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release;
  • Ernest Wagner, 70, of Federal Way, Washington, was arrested and charged in the District of Columbia with conspiracy to distribute child pornography;
  • Michael Ezeagbor, 22, of Pflugerville, Texas, was arrested and charged in the District of Columbia with conspiracy to distribute child pornography;
  • Nicholas Stengel, 45, of Washington, D.C., pleaded guilty to receipt of child pornography and money laundering and was sentenced to serve 15 years in prison followed by a lifetime of supervised release;
  • Eryk Mark Chamberlin, 25, of Worcester, Massachusetts, pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography and is pending sentencing;
  • Jairo Flores, 30, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, pleaded guilty in the District of Massachusetts to receipt and possession of child pornography and was sentenced to serve five years in prison followed by five years of supervised release;
  • Billy Penaloza, 29, of Dorchester, Massachusetts, pleaded guilty in the District of Massachusetts to possession and receipt of child pornography. His sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 22, 2019;
  • Michael Armstrong, 35, of Randolph, Massachusetts, pleaded guilty in the District of Massachusetts, to receipt and possession of child pornography. He was sentenced to serve five years in prison followed by five years of supervised release. Restitution will be determined at a future date;
  • Al Ramadhanu Soedomo, 28, of Lynn, Massachusetts, pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography and was sentenced in the District of Massachusetts (Boston), to serve 12 months and one day followed by five years of supervised release;
  • Phillip Sungmin Hong, 24, of Sharon, Massachusetts, pleaded guilty in the District of Massachusetts (Boston), to receipt and possession of child pornography and is pending sentencing;
  • Eliseo Arteaga Jr., 28, of Mesquite, Texas, pleaded guilty in the Northern District of Texas to possession of prepubescent child pornography. He is pending sentencing;
  • Richard Nikolai Gratkowski, 40, of San Antonio, Texas, a former HSI special agent, was arrested in the Western District of Texas. Gratkowski pleaded guilty to the indictment charging one count of receipt of child pornography and one count of access with intent to view child pornography. Gratkowski was sentenced to serve 70 months in prison followed by 10 years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $35,000 in restitution to seven victims and a $10,000 assessment;
  • Paul Casey Whipple, 35, of Hondo, Texas, a U.S. Border Patrol Agent, was arrested in the Western District of Texas, on charges of sexual exploitation of children/minors, production, distribution, and possession of child pornography. Whipple remains in custody awaiting trial in San Antonio;
  • Michael Lawson, 36, of Midland, Georgia, was arrested in the Middle District of Georgia on charges of attempted sexual exploitation of children and possession of child pornography. He was sentenced to serve 121 months in prison followed by 10 years of supervised release following his plea to a superseding information charging him with one count of receipt of child pornography;
  • Kevin Christopher Eagan, 39, of Brookhaven, Georgia, pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography in the Northern District of Georgia;
  • Casey Santioius Head, 37, of Griffin, Georgia, was indicted in the Northern District of Georgia for distribution, receipt, and possession of child pornography;
  • Andrew C. Chu, 28, of Garwood, New Jersey, was arrested and charged with receipt of child pornography. Those charges remain pending;
  • Nader Hamdi Ahmed, 29 of Jersey City, New Jersey, was arrested in the District of New Jersey, for sexual exploitation or other abuse of children. Ahmed pleaded guilty to an information charging him with one count of distribution of child pornography. He is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 1, 2019;
  • Jeffrey Lee Harris, 32, of Pickens, South Carolina, pleaded guilty in the District of South Carolina for producing, distributing, and possessing child pornography;
  • Laine Ormand Clark Jr., 27, of Conway, South Carolina, was arrested and charged in U.S. District Court in South Carolina Division for sexual possession of child pornography;
  • Jack R. Dove III, 38, of Lakeland, Florida, was arrested in the Middle District of Florida for knowingly receiving and possessing visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct;
  • Michael Matthew White, 39, of Miami Beach, Florida, was arrested in the Southern District of Florida for coercion and enticement;
  • Nikolas Bennion Bradshaw, 24, of Bountiful, Utah, was arrested in the State of Utah, and charged with five counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, and was sentenced to time served with 91 days in jail followed by probation;
  • Michael Don Gibbs, 37, of Holladay, Utah, was charged in the District of Utah with receipt of child pornography and possession of child pornography;
  • Ammar Atef H. Alahdali, 22, of Arlington, Virginia, pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of Virginia to receipt of child pornography and was sentenced to serve five years in prison and ordered to pay $3,000 in restitution;
  • Eugene Edward Jung, 47, of San Francisco, California, was indicted in the Northern District of California on possession of child pornography and receipt of child pornography;
  • James Daosaeng, 25, of Springdale, Arkansas, pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography and was sentenced in the Western District of Arkansas (Fayetteville) to serve 97 months in prison followed by 20 years of supervised release;
  • Alex Daniel Paxton, 30, of Columbus, Ohio, was arrested and indicted in Franklin County Ohio Court of Common Pleas for pandering sexually oriented matter involving a minor;
  • Don Edward Pannell, 32, of Harvey, Louisiana, pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of Louisiana for receipt of child pornography. He is pending sentencing;
  • Ryan Thomas Carver, 29, of Huntsville, Alabama, was arrested and charged under Alabama State Law. He was charged federally in the Northern District of Alabama with possession of child pornography. His case is pending in Huntsville, Alabama;
  • Andrew Buckley, 28, of the United Kingdom, pleaded guilty to 10 offences in the UK of possession and distribution of indecent images of children, possession of extreme and prohibited images and possession of a class A drug. He was sentenced to serve 40 months in prison for the distribution of indecent images and possession of class A drugs. Buckley is also subject to an indefinite Sexual Harm Prevention Order;
  • Kyle Fox, 26, of the United Kingdom, pleaded guilty to 22 counts including rape, sexual assault, and sharing indecent images, and was sentenced to serve 22 years in prison; and
  • Mohammed Almaker, 26, of Fort Collins, Colorado, was arrested in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), charged with KSA Law involving the endangerment of children. He is awaiting judicial proceedings in furtherance of criminal charges.

The indictment alleges that Son was arrested on March 5 last year, at which point investigators seized the server that he used to operate a Darknet market that exclusively advertised child sexual exploitation videos available for download by members of the site.  The operation resulted in the seizure of approximately eight terabytes of child sexual exploitation videos, which is one of the largest seizures of its kind.

The images, which are currently being analyzed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, contained more than 250,000 videos, and 45 percent of the videos currently analyzed contain new images that have not been previously known to exist.

Welcome To Video offered these videos for sale using the cryptocurrency bitcoin.

“Darknet sites that profit from the sexual exploitation of children are among the most vile and reprehensible forms of criminal behavior,” Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski said. “This Administration will not allow child predators to use lawless online spaces as a shield. Today’s announcement demonstrates that the Department of Justice remains firmly committed to working closely with our partners in South Korea and around the world to rescue child victims and bring to justice the perpetrators of these abhorrent crimes.”

Officials said that "typically, sites of this kind give users a forum to trade in these depictions. This Darknet website is among the first of its kind to monetize child exploitation videos using bitcoin. In fact, the site itself boasted over one million downloads of child exploitation videos by users. Each user received a unique bitcoin address when the user created an account on the website. An analysis of the server revealed that the website had more than one million bitcoin addresses, signifying that the website had a capacity for at least one million users."

The investigation has resulted in leads sent to 38 countries and the arrests of 337 suspects around the world. The operation has resulted in searches of residences and businesses of 92 people in the United States. 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.

“Children around the world are safer because of the actions taken by U.S. and foreign law enforcement to prosecute this case and recover funds for victims,” U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu said. “We will continue to pursue such criminals on and off the darknet in the United States and abroad, to ensure they receive the punishment their terrible crimes deserve.”

IRS-CI Chief Don Fort added, “through the sophisticated tracing of bitcoin transactions, IRS-CI special agents were able to determine the location of the Darknet server, identify the administrator of the website and ultimately track down the website server’s physical location in South Korea.

"This large-scale criminal enterprise that endangered the safety of children around the world is no more. Regardless of the illicit scheme, and whether the proceeds are virtual or tangible, we will continue to work with our federal and international partners to track down these disgusting organizations and bring them to justice.”

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