“Child porn bust: Anatomy of an international child pornography investigation” & related articles

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Star reporters granted exclusive access as police worldwide make hundreds of arrests in what is known as Project Spade.

The Toronto Star

14 November 2013

Detective Constable Lisa Belanger led the investigation into what is believed to be the largest .most extensive commerical child pornography ring ever uncovered in Canada.

The customers logged in from around the world: Germany. Spain. Mexico. Australia. Hundreds from Canada and the United States. They came from all walks of life; they worked as schoolteachers and newspaper editors, as police officers and doctors.

What they had in common, police allege, was that they paid a Toronto man to provide them with explicit “naturist” videos of children — and, as a result, they are now caught up in what is believed to be the smashing of the largest, most extensive commercial child pornography ring ever uncovered in Canada.

Among law enforcement, the investigation is known as Project Spade.

For nearly a year, a team of Star reporters was granted exclusive behind-the-scenes access to the child exploitation unit of the Toronto Police Service as they brought their three-year investigation to a conclusion on Thursday.

At the centre of the ring, police allege, is Brian Way: A 42-year-old with a thin goatee and carefully groomed hair, he faces 24 charges of making, possessing, distributing, exporting and selling the explicit images of boys — who range in age from toddlers to teens — in videos that investigators say were edited, packaged and sold from his west-end Toronto warehouse.

They have also laid a charge of instructing a criminal organization, the first time this has been done in relation to a child pornography investigation. It is a charge more usually associated with gangs or organized crime.

“This case has really challenged people to reconsider what nudism and child modelling are,” said Toronto police Detective-Constable Lisa Belanger, who led the investigation. “It’s caused countries around the world to look at this material and ask whether it’s OK for doctors, teachers, daycare providers and hockey coaches to be buying this kind of material. Countries from South Africa to Australia, Isle of Man to Hong Kong and Spain have all said it’s not OK. I think it’s going to have ripple effects everywhere.”

The charges against Way, who is in custody, have not yet been proven in court. His lawyer, Nyron Dwyer, declined repeated requests for comment on behalf of his client.

Among Way’s alleged Canadian clients are a Chatham volunteer hockey coach, a teacher in Toronto, a priest and a Boy Scout leader in Quebec, and a retired high-school principal in Nova Scotia.

“This case has really challenged people to reconsider what nudism and child modelling are. It’s caused countries around the world to look at this material and ask whether it’s OK for doctors, teachers, daycare providers and hockey coaches to be buying this kind of material.”

Lisa Belanger

Toronto police detective constable who led the investigation

In the U.S., those arrested include police officers, a high-profile pediatrician, school teachers, principals and coaches and a Boy Scout leader.

In all, 108 Canadians have been arrested in Project Spade sweeps (50 in Ontario, of whom at least 20 have so far pleaded guilty to various charges). Another 76 Americans face charges. Internationally, another 164 are before the courts. And hundreds more remain under investigation.

Even as Toronto detectives revealed Project Spade to the world at a news conference Thursday at police headquarters, the arrests kept coming: Swedish police reported another batch, bringing the global total of arrests to 348.

Among them in Canada: Forty school teachers, nine doctors and nurses, 32 people who volunteer with children, six law enforcement personnel, nine pastors and priests and three foster parents.

As police dug deeper into the suspects’ activities, they discovered that many had not simply been purchasing alleged child pornography images and videos, but were actively engaged in hands-on abuse of children.

In all, police say 386 children were rescued from direct abuse and exploitation as a result of the Spade investigation — including 24 Canadian children and more than 330 children in the U.S.

Modest start

For an investigation that would eventually cross international borders into more than 90 countries and include dozens of law enforcement agencies, the genesis of Project Spade began locally, nearly a decade ago.

Way, police allege, began his business — characterized now as a clandestine, large-volume international network — modestly. They say he started by buying films from other companies and redistributing them, online, under his own company name: 4PSP Inc.

But Way’s site, and success, attracted attention. By 2004, police had received more than 30 complaints about the site, says Belanger.

On the surface, it appeared to be a legal “naturist” site, showcasing what were billed as artistic films that featured nude boys. But officers decided a closer look was needed, and an investigation was launched in 2006. They looked at Way’s material and found nudity — worrying to many, but not enough to meet the strict legal parameters of child pornography.

It was decided police couldn’t lay charges, but they warned Way the material was questionable.

With that, Way disappeared from police radar — until detectives stumbled across him as part of a separate investigation years later.

Hundreds of kids rescued from child porn ring: Police

In October 2010, as part of his routine work, Toronto police sex crimes unit investigator Det. Paul Krawczyk was downloading child abuse images from an anonymous online porn trader, who appeared to have a vast library of material. (Officers often pose undercover as pedophiles in order to identify targets and gather evidence.) Krawczyk, one of the most experienced investigators in Canada in the field, was taken aback by the extent of the material in his new target’s possession.

“It was one of the biggest collections of child pornography we’d ever seen,” Krawczyk says.

He discovered the anonymous figure behind the online porn library was Brian Way. That’s when police computers flagged his name from the previous investigation. The connection led to the creation of Project Spade.

By this time, 4PSP Inc. had morphed into a new site: Azovfilms.com.

The site was an Amazon-like marketplace, “featuring coming-of-age and naturist films,” the website claimed. There were Top 10 lists and reviews for discerning customers; a searchable catalogue; and digital downloads and credit card payments were available.

The site boasted more than two million unique visitors in 2009; by 2010, the number was more than three million.

It also had an extensive legal page, where clients were assured that “no film we sell violates Canadian or American law.” This, after all, was a site that was supposed to feature wholesome naturist films.

But if police could prove, and they have yet to do so, that the videos focused on the genital area, and were for a “sexual purpose” rather than for artistic merit, they could build a case for child exploitation.

In order to do that, they were going to have to get copies of what Way was selling, and that was not going to be easy.

“He was super, super-careful,” Krawczyk says. “He denied 10 to 15 orders a day because he was so very careful.”

What followed was a two-year cat-and-mouse game.

Appeared ordinary

To casual observers in the industrial area of west Toronto where his website was headquartered, Way appeared to live the most ordinary of lives.

Each morning, he would don jeans and a sweatshirt and head to his nondescript office on The Queensway, walk over to Tim Hortons for coffee and a bagel — then disappear back behind the mirrored door, next to the black mailbox.

His mailman called Way a charming man who always remembered him with a bottle of wine at Christmas. The teller who saw Way regularly when he did his banking hired him to photograph her wedding. And no one, including the tenants who shared space in his building, knew what went on behind the mirrored door.

Police staked out the office and saw a bustling business. Trucks came and went, Belanger says. And while many of the customers chose to download videos digitally, many remained devoted to hard-copy DVDs, which were dispatched by courier.

Police needed to obtain video evidence, but not trigger alarm bells. The Canadian officers decided on a solution: because so many of the site’s customers were in the U.S., the Toronto officers looked south for a law enforcement partner.

Enter Insp. Brian Bone. He is the program manager for a team of investigators at the U.S. Postal Inspection Service that specialize in child exploitation cases — and if it seems unlikely that postal employees hunt pedophiles, it’s because even in this high-tech age, a lot of child pornography still gets delivered via mail and by courier.

Bone placed his first successful order from Azovfilms.com in February 2011. He kept going. All told, he would purchase 10 DVDs, five of which met both the Canadian and U.S. legal standards as child pornography, police allege.

(In Canada, child pornography is defined as images or videos that depict, or appear to depict, a person under 18 in explicit sexual activity, or shows “for a sexual purpose . . . a sexual organ or the anal region of a person under the age of 18 years.” U.S. law is similar.)

“This is one of the larger cases we’ve had in recent memory because of the international scope,” Bone said. “It touched all 50 states and many countries across the world. We’ve been successfully able to target suspects of the company and the operators and bring a lot of people to justice.”

Investigators who have seen the videos describe them the same way: All boys. All young. Some are very young.

“There’s a scene with a blow-up pool in an apartment with baby oil,” Belanger says. “One child in a movie takes 15 showers — all these kids we knew were being exploited.”

Joanna Beaven-Desjardins, unit commander of the Toronto Police’s sex crimes unit, alleges the images contained in hundreds of thousands of videos depict, “horrific sexual acts against very young children – some of the worst (officers) have ever viewed.”

By May 1, 2011, Belanger had search warrants for seven Toronto addresses, including Way’s home, post-office boxes, safety deposit boxes, car — and the office behind the mirrored door.

The operational plan for the bust — essentially the police’s play-by-play guide — ran 30 pages long, and 30 officers were involved. Way was arrested as he made his usual coffee-and-bagel run.

Once he was in custody, other officers sprang into action.

Inside Way’s Etobicoke condo unit in the Mystic Pointe development alongside the Gardiner Expressway, a laptop hummed away. It had been left powered up and logged on — which was crucial for police. That meant they were able to access his servers, free from encryption.

In his nearby office, another team of officers discovered shelves lined with a massive library of videos. They seized 1,000 pieces of evidence: computer servers, DVD burners, a video editing suite — and rows and rows of movies.

Belanger says spreadsheets on computers showed revenue of about $1.6 million over two years. (Ultimately, police said the company had revenues of over $4 million.) They also discovered something that expanded Project Spade’s scope: a list of customers.

Belanger and eight colleagues spent the summer screening more than 500 movies. They logged what they saw — and by the time they stopped counting they had catalogued 283,000 digital images of alleged child pornography, and another 10,000 videos in what they allege is Way’s personal collection.

Many of the site’s bestselling videos focus on a group of young boys in Eastern Europe. Police ultimately determined they were in Romania and Ukraine — and that they were being exploited for profit. The Romanian children were recruited from karate schools across the northern region of the country.

“Parents were being told their kids were going on karate trips, and they were being allowed to drink, do drugs, watch pornography and have naked videos made of them,” says Belanger.

The investigators ultimately focused on 160 of the most troubling videos they had seized. Because they had the customer list, detectives cross-referenced the disturbing films with the Azovfilms.com clients who they believed had purchased them.

Nearly a dozen search warrants were obtained focused on men in Toronto; seven were eventually arrested. (Most of them remain before the courts.) The Toronto officers shared their client lists with law enforcement around the world, and parallel investigations have been underway for two years in dozens of other countries.

In all, nearly 350 men around the world have been arrested to date. Investigations are still underway in many countries.

Way remains in custody. His preliminary hearing — during which a judge decides if there is enough evidence to send an accused to trial — is still ongoing, with another date set for next month.

On a cold, rainy morning last December, he walked into a North York courtroom handcuffed and dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit. Police were methodically laying out their case, and as the afternoon continued, Way stifled yawns and chatted with his lawyer. He appeared relaxed.

Police and prosecutors believe a long legal battle looms.

“This case demonstrates what we always suspected about naturist or child modelling sites — if it looks like they’re exploiting children, it’s likely they are,” Belanger says. “This project shows that the commercialization of children this way can be pornographic, and we have to investigate it.

“What was going on behind the scenes,” she alleges, “was child abuse.”

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Child porn bust: The men who were charged

As part of Project Spade, hundreds of people were charged from all over the world, including Canada. They were teachers, doctors, priests . . .

The Toronto Star

Published on Thu Nov 14 2013

Dr. Mark Shaffer  was one of the people swept up in the Project Spade investigation.

Dr. Mark Shaffer was one of the people swept up in the Project Spade investigation.

The bedroom resembled that of a teenager: Hockey posters on the wall. A computer.

The man it belonged to was in his late 40s.

Police had a serious reason for being in the Chatham, Ont., home where Ronald Inghelbrecht lived with his mother: officers in Toronto suspected he was a customer of a website that sold child pornography, and the Ontario Provincial Police were there to look for evidence.

“I would describe his room as being adolescent — like he decorated it when he was 12, or 14, and he never changed it,” said OPP Detective David Beckon.

Police seized three computers and thousands of images and movies — and just one video was what the officers in Toronto were looking for. It, they say, tied Inghelbrecht to a website they were investigating as part of Project Spade. He was charged with possession of child pornography and accessing child pornography, and the Chatham-Kent police put out a news release on Dec. 5, 2011.

Three days later, they followed with another release — and Inghelbrecht’s legal troubles worsened.

“Since the original news release, a former Chatham resident has come forward to report being the victim of historical sexual abuse,” read the news release, dated Dec. 8, 2011.

“The accused in this matter was in a mentor position with children spanning a period of 10 years between 1984 and 1994.” Police said he volunteered as a hockey coach.

An additional 11 sex-related offences were added to Inghelbrecht’s charge sheet. He was sentenced to seven years in prison, where he remains.

Through a Corrections Canada spokeswoman, Inghelbrecht declined to speak with the Star.

B.C. man abused adopted son

He had volunteered for the Big Brothers organization to mentor children in British Columbia.

He had helped build an orphanage in Mexico and sponsored several children through the charity World Vision.

He eventually adopted a young boy.

But the 43-year-old man from the Lower Mainland — who cannot be identified because of a court-ordered publication ban to protect the identity of his victims — was also an accused child abuser.

When the RCMP’s Internet child exploitation unit in B.C. — acting on a tip from the Toronto police as part of the Project Spade investigation — raided his home in 2012, they seized his computer and other items and charged the man with possession of child pornography.

Five months later, the police returned to arrest him again, this time on far more serious accusations.

“We have evidence of what we allege is hands-on abuse of children,” an RCMP spokesperson told reporters at the time.

In June 2013, the man pleaded guilty to three charges of direct sexual offences against two children — one of them the boy he had adopted — and one count of possession of child pornography.

He was convicted of “being in a position of trust or authority” toward two minors and abusing them as well as “observing and recording” one child while he was nude.

“Possession of child pornography facilitates the seduction and grooming of victims and may break down inhibitions or incite potential offences,” prosecutor Andrea Ormiston told the Star. “Possession of child pornography increases the risk of child abuse.”

The man received “the equivalent of a 14-month sentence” for his crimes, according to the criminal justice branch of the B.C. attorney-general, after he was given credit for time served in jail while awaiting trial.

‘No pedophile wants to get caught’

MONTREAL — “No one who is a pedophile wants to get caught and have their horrifying secret revealed to the world,” David Goldberg, a respected Montreal community newspaper editor and a popular former minor baseball coach, wrote in an astonishingly frank confession in an American magazine.

“For almost 20 years, I spent virtually every night of my life in the same manner: Sitting in front of my computer . . . trawling the Internet for child pornography,” Goldberg wrote in the August edition of the Atlantic. “Nothing would stop me from continuing this perverse pursuit.”

But something did: His arrest, in June 2012, as part of Project Spade.

He was eventually sentenced to 90 days in jail, served on weekends, followed by three years’ probation for possession of child pornography. According to court documents, his strict conditions include not being allowed to visit parks or use the Internet.

In addition to editing the Free Press, a local paper distributed in three west-end boroughs, Goldberg was a communications consultant for a crime prevention community group.

Goldberg, who declined through his lawyer to speak to the Star, wrote in his piece for the Atlantic — headlined “I, Pedophile” — that his family and friends have “stood by since my arrest and love and accept me, despite my sexual flaws.”

He insisted that “the majority of pedophiles do not molest but instead spend hours looking at child pornography” and asked: “Will the day ever come when we, as a society, reach out and offer them the help they so desperately need?”

Popular parish priest

By all accounts, he was a popular parish priest, a church youth leader and an active Scout organizer.

So when Daniel Moreau, 56, was arrested at his living quarters at a local church last March, there was shock and dismay in the town of Sorel-Tracy, about 100 kilometres northeast of Montreal.

Moreau was charged with seven counts of child pornography, part of a nationwide sweep resulting from Project Spade.

“We understand the distress that such an event can cause within the entire community,” diocese officials said in a statement, and announced Moreau had been relieved of his duties.

Most details of the case are under a publication ban, but defence lawyer Gilles B. Thibault told the Star his client was accused of possessing “an important quantity” of child pornography.

“It is not an isolated act, not a single photo or video — it is more than that,” he said.

Thibault confirmed his client was active in the Scouts in various places around Quebec for a “number of years.”

But, he said, “to date they have not found any victim in the Scout movement.”

Moreau’s case is before the courts.

South of the border

Many of the suspects in the United States are high-profile community leaders in education, medicine, child care and even law enforcement. Nearly 150 people have been investigated as part of Project Spade, and 76 have been charged to date. The U.S. authorities are continuing their investigation, said Insp. Brian Bone of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

About 20 of those men charged have pleaded guilty, said Bone.

The others face trials — and under the stiff sentencing guidelines in the U.S. they could spend decades behind bars for child pornography and sexual abuse offences.

U.S. authorities say they rescued more than 330 children from sexual abuse and exploitation.

Among the arrests were the chief probation officer of San Mateo County in California, an Oregon state trooper, a Connecticut police officer, a Texas police officer and an FBI program manager.

Many of the other suspects had close access to children, including an elementary school teacher from Georgia, a New Jersey middle-school vice principal, a high-school basketball coach in Ohio and a senior executive with the Indiana Boy Scouts.

A medical director

For two decades, Dr. Richard Keller was the medical director at one of the most prestigious private high schools in the United States.

He had also been trying, and failing, to control his urge to look at child pornography. Legal documents filed in his case said he had a “long-standing sexual interest in adolescents since the early 1970s.”

As an alleged customer of Azovfilms, Keller was arrested by U.S. Postal Inspectors as part of Project Spade. He was charged with possession and receipt of child pornography.

According to legal documents filed with U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, Keller spent $2,695 on 50 separate titles, bought on 19 different occasions. The affidavit of an investigator describes one of the films he purchased: “we . . . bring you . . . action-packed discs of ooey-gooey slippery goodness.”

During a search of his home, police found 500 images, printed on high-gloss paper, as well as another 60 DVDs of child pornography.

As part of the plea agreement, Keller admitted he had a “long-standing sexual interest in adolescents since the early 1970s. Keller admits to viewing child pornography on the Internet, and that he has previously tried to stop, but failed to do so.”

Keller left the Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass. — where alumni include former U.S. presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush — in 2011. A spokeswoman for the school said he left for reasons “unrelated” to the case, and “at no time during his employment or during the subsequent investigation has anyone alleged criminal behaviour by Richard Keller relating to his former role with Phillips Academy.”

Keller left Phillips in 2011 and moved to Children’s Hospital in Boston, which is part of Harvard Medical School.

A sentence of between five and 6.5 years was recommended by prosecutors and Keller’s defence attorney. Keller also faces a fine and probation. He is to be sentenced early next year.

‘Totally broken man’

The pre-arrest photo shows a kindly-looking gent; bespectacled, and wearing a white doctor’s coat, he seems like the kind of old-fashioned GP who might make house calls.

The second picture, the one on the Ohio State Department of Corrections website, shows a very different Dr. Mark Shaffer: this one is a convicted felon, another man ensnared by Project Spade.

Shaffer was arrested after U.S. Postal Inspectors knocked on the door of his home in Aurora, Ohio, about 40 kilometres southeast of Cleveland, looking for films purchased from a Canadian site.

He was immediately co-operative with officers, and admitted to buying the material, prosecutor Steve Michniak said — and then Shaffer went further, telling investigators in a lengthy, voluntary interview, that he had also abused children. His victims included a 12-year-old boy and a girl who was 5 when the abuse began.

Michniak agreed to send Shaffer to prison on a charge of kidnapping with sexual motivation; the sentence is life, with a 10-year minimum.

“I am a totally broken man and full of remorse,” Shaffer said during his sentencing, according to the Record-Courier, the local newspaper. “I am going to beg for mercy from God and you and your court, your honour, but whatever sentence I receive, I will serve it with whatever dignity I have left.”

As Shaffer is about to turn 80, it is likely he will die behind bars, and because of that federal attorneys decided not to press child pornography charges against him.

In a statement to the court, one victim said they suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and regularly had flashbacks.

“There are times and, certainly in my case, lifelong negative consequences of what it feels like to awaken in terror in the middle of the night from an abuse-related nightmare,” they said, “shaking and crying from memories of events that occurred decades ago.”

____________________________________

Eight Ottawa men implicated in Canada’s largest child porn bust

Metro News

14 November 2013

Steve Russell/TORSTAR NEWS SERVICE Inspector Joanna Beaven-Desjardins, commander of the Sex Crimes Unit addresses media as more than 30 police officers from around the world gather to announce the end of a 3-year child pornography investigation, Project Spade, at Police Headquarters in Toronto. November 14, 2013.

Ottawa police said Thursday eight men from Ottawa have been charged in connection with a massive, international child pornography bust stemming from a Toronto website that sold illegal videos.

The local men collectively face 20 child pornography charges and were arrested between November 2011 and February 2013 in an operation authorities called Project Spade, said Sgt. Frank D’Aoust with the Ottawa police Internet Child Exploitation unit. During their arrests, two handguns and a quantity of controlled substances were also seized.

Toronto police also identified Scott Waldo Fraser, a Brampton man who used to live in Ottawa, who was arrested in July 2012 and was charged with 64 offences, including making, accessing, and possessing child pornography, sexual assault, and invitation to sexual touching. D’Aoust said he was not a customer of Azovfilms.com, the website at the centre of Project Spade.

The website distributed child pornography across the world and its creator was arrested in 2011, D’Aoust said. Even after it was shut down, police were able to comb through the servers connected to the website and track down those who accessed it.

The website reached many around the world and police are calling it the biggest child pornography ring in Canada.

“It was huge,” said D’Aoust. “In terms of the number of arrests and children rescued, it was unprecedented.”

Police retrieved 45 terabytes of digital media which resulted in 348 arrests worldwide, including 50 in Ontario and 58 from other parts of Canada. Police say 386 children were rescued.

Police allege Brian Way, 42, had been running an “exploitation movie, production and distribution company” called Azov Films since 2005, and had made more than $4 million from the business.

Police made contact with him in October 2010 when their investigation began. What they uncovered was a staggering collection of images and videos.

“This is equivalent to a stack of paper as tall as 1,500 CN Towers,” said Insp. Joanna Beaven-Desjardins, of Toronto police’s Sex Crimes Unit.

School teachers, doctors, nurses, pastors and foster parents are implicated in the hundreds of arrests police made over the years.

– with files from The Canadian Press

3 Responses to “Child porn bust: Anatomy of an international child pornography investigation” & related articles

  1. Sylvia says:

    As I posted elsewhere, I see reference in one article to a priest in Quebec, and then in another to the arrest of Father Daniel Moreau. Father Daniel Moreau‘s name was added to Sylvia’S Site last March when he was arrested and charged. I think therefore that the coverage right now includes arrests and charges which were laid in recent months. It seems that Moreua was arrested as a result of Project Spade?

    I can find no reference to persons charged within the last few days as a result of Project Spade, but I do see reference to persons who were, like Moreau, charged some months ago without reference to the probe. It’s a little confusing.

    No matter, it’s horrific. All the porn depicts per-pubescent boys. Many of the accused are professionals. According to an article I just posted: “Those charged around the world include six law enforcement officials, nine religious leaders, 40 school teachers, three foster parents and 32 children volunteers, plus nine doctors and nurses.”

    As horrific as it is, it’s good. I am sure none of these people were keen to tighten laws anywhere regarding child sexual abuse, or take to task those who cover-up for and/or enable molesters.

    What a sick sick world we live in,

  2. Sylvia says:

    Correction. It’s not sick. Evil is the word.

  3. Agnes says:

    Yes, this is evil. The poor investigators…though their work saved a good number of children. They did good work.

    I am also not sure if these are new arrests, it is confusing.

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