Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Investigators Arrest 89 in Internet Porn Sting

WASHINGTON -- A U.S. Internet child-pornography ring has been smashed with the arrest of about 90 people, including two Roman Catholic priests, a school bus driver, a teacher's aide and a police officer, U.S. federal authorities said Monday.

"It is clear that a new marketplace for child pornography has emerged from the dark corners of cyberspace," Attorney General John Ashcroft said at a news briefing. "Innocent boys and girls have been targeted by offenders who view them as sexual objects."

The suspects have been charged with various felonies, including possession, production or distribution of child pornography, said Angela Bell, a spokeswoman for the FBI. The most serious charges carry sentences of several years in prison upon conviction, she said.

In addition, 27 of those arrested have admitted to having molested more than 40 children, the FBI said.

Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller III said all 56 FBI field offices and numerous local law enforcement units were taking part in the operation, which began in January 2001 in Houston after an undercover agent there identified groups involved in child pornography.

One web site advertised itself as being "for people who love kids," the authorities said. The site invited people to "post any type of messages you like" and offered a postscript: "If we all work together, we will have the best group on the Net."

The Houston groups used "the Candyman" as a general cyberheading, prompting the Justice Department to call its anti-pornography effort Operation Candyman. The authorities said the groups' web sites had been shut down and that many more arrests were expected. The authorities counted about 7,000 computer addresses in the Candyman groups, with about 2,400 of those outside the United States.

Subpoenas were given to Internet service providers. More than 200 searches of homes and computers were carried out, the FBI said.

Bell said some arrests were made weeks or months ago and had already been publicized. One priest was arrested in Baltimore and the other in St. Louis, she said. Seven people have been arrested in Houston and five in Miami, the authorities said. Four people were arrested in Albany, New York, four in Philadelphia, three in New York and one in Newark, New Jersey.

The FBI said one woman was among those arrested. In addition to the two priests, several other clergymen are suspected, the FBI said.

Many other suspects had jobs that put them in close contact with children. They include a school bus driver in Albany, a teacher's aide at a preschool and day-care center in Las Vegas, a child photographer in Philadelphia and law enforcement professionals in Pittsburgh and San Diego, the FBI said.

Little-league baseball coaches and a registered foster-care parent are among the suspects.