Minneapolis man charged in nationwide online child porn ring

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A 33-year-old Minneapolis man has been charged with receiving child pornography in one of the largest online child exploitation investigations in the history of U.S. Customs and Enforcement, the Star Tribune reports.

Twelve juveniles from Minnesota have been identified among the 251 victims from 39 states and five countries, according to the Star Tribune.

The Department of Homeland Security Tuesday announced results of its investigation, called Operation Round Table, which targeted an underground pornography website which had more than 27,000 members and contained more than 2,000 videos.

The Minneapolis man, identified as Sean Jabbar, is one of 14 men arrested and charged as part of a conspiracy to operate a child exploitation enterprise.

According to the Star Tribune, Jabbar was arrested at a residence in Minneapolis late last year, a local ICE spokesman said on Tuesday.

A western Wisconsin man was also identified as part of the ring. Michael Eales, 24, of Westby, Wis., was tried and convicted on federal charges of manufacturing child pornography. He was sentenced in October to two concurrent 30-year terms in federal prison, followed by a lifetime of supervised release.

In most cases, young boys were targeted online by the men and tricked into creating sexually explicit videos of themselves, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The website was hosted on the Darknet’s Onion Router, also known as Tor, an underground network that protects users' anonymity by directing Internet traffic through a volunteer network consisting of thousands of relays to conceal a user’s location. The site operated from June 2012 until June 2013, when authorities shut it down.

The website’s primary administrator, Jonathan Johnson, 27, of Abita Springs, La., was arrested in June and has been charged with operating a child exploitation enterprise. He admitted to creating multiple fake female personas on popular social networks to target and sexually exploit children, and to coaching other child predators in his inner circle to do the same. Johnson remains in federal custody and faces 20 years to life in prison, according to Homeland Security.

Most victims were male between 13 to 15 years old, officials said. Two victims were 3 years old or younger.

Local ICE spokesman Shawn Neudauer said the 12 Minnesota victims came from all parts of the state, the Star Tribune reports. In addition, there were 12 victims from North Dakota, two from South Dakota, and six from Iowa. In many cases, the children were enticed to perform sexual acts on Internet webcam services such as Skype.

Neudauer said there is no evidence to suggest any of the victims ever actually met the perpetrators, according to the newspaper.

“Never before in the history of this agency have we identified and located this many minor victims in the course of a single child exploitation investigation,” said ICE Deputy Director Daniel Ragsdale. “Our agency is seeing a growing trend where children are being enticed, tricked and coerced online by adults to produce sexually explicit material of themselves. While we will continue to prioritize the arrest of child predators, we cannot arrest our way out of this problem: education is the key to prevention.”

Authorities are still reviewing more than 40 terabytes of data in the investigation, and they say more arrests are likely. More than 300 investigations have been opened into potential subscribers of the website -- 150 in the United States and 150 overseas.

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