“The world’s largest child pornography website has been shut down,” said a joint press conference held on October 17, representatives of the Office of the Attorney General of the District of Columbia and the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice.
The IRS Criminal Investigation Agency (IRS-CI) and the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (HSI), along with the National Crime Agency of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Korea, also participated.
According to the IRS-CI, agents discovered the Welcome to Video website, identified as the largest market for child sexual exploitation by volume of content. This due to his work in previous dark web markets. There is usually added content that is not normally accessed through regular Internet browsing activities.
The spokesmen explained that the IRS-CI was not only able to track the bitcoin transactions carried out on the site by people from all over the world, loading and unloading the material but was also able to find the administrator’s location. By analyzing the blockchain platform and eliminating the anonymity of cryptocurrency operations, the agency was able to identify hundreds of sexual predators, even though these users thought they could remain anonymous.
As a result of the investigations, Jong Woo Son, 23, a citizen of South Korea, was indicted by a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia for operating the site. His son has also been charged and convicted in South Korea and is currently detained.
The operation also resulted in the seizure of approximately 7.5 terabytes of videos of child pornography. It is the largest of its kind, with more than 10,000 CDs full of images that are no longer in the hands of child pornographers. The pictures, which are being examined by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), have more than 250,000 rare videos, of which 45% contain photographs that were previously unknown to exist.
According to the complaint, on March 5, 2018, IRS-CI agents, HSI, the National Crime Agency of the United Kingdom and the National Police of South Korea arrested Son. They also seized the server he used to operate on a darknet, where he advertised the materials of child sexual exploitation. Welcome to Video provided these videos for sale using BTC cryptocurrency.
For the agency, this website is one of the first of its kind to monetize videos of child exploitation using bitcoin. Each user received a unique BTC address when creating an account, which could be used to pay for content download. A study of the server showed that the web site had more than one million bitcoin addresses.
The data on the seized page was shared with law enforcement agencies throughout the world. This has resulted in leads from potential customers in 38 countries. In addition to Son, there are 337 users of the site that reside in 23 states of the United States, as well as in the United Kingdom, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Czech Republic, United Arab Emirates, Germany, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, and Australia. All have been arrested and charged. Even two users of the darknet committed suicide, following the execution of search warrants.
The complaint alleges that law enforcement officials were able to track payments with bitcoin following the flow of funds on the blockchain platform. The cryptocurrency accounts identified in the complaint were allegedly used by 24 people in five countries, to fund the website and promote the exploitation of children. Therefore, the idea is to recover these funds, as part of efforts to help victims of crime.
In addition to the arrests and seizures, the operation is also responsible for the rescue of at least 23 minor victims, located in the United States, Spain, and the United Kingdom, who were being abused by the users of the site. On this, the head of the IRS-CI, Don Fort, commented the following:
Through the complicated tracking of bitcoin proceedings, IRS-CI special agents were able to identify the location of the darknet server, identify the site administrator and finally track the reallocation of the server in South Korea. This great criminal enterprise, which endangered the safety of children worldwide, no longer exists.
The agency explained that its unique and unique approach, in tracking money, made this a logical move, after playing key roles in the dismantling of Silk Road, BTC-E, Mt Gox, and other crimes committed in the shadows of the dark web. He added that “the agency’s expertise to the exam blockchain network and eliminate the anonymity of BTC transactions allowed the recognition of hundreds of predators worldwide.”
Fort highlighted the IRS-CI’s experience in tracking money. “Today, it is the only federal agency that dedicates 100% of its resources to the investigation of financial crimes.”
The official offered an additional message for criminals around the world:
You used to hide washing your money through ghost companies across the country, but we track you down. You took your money abroad and hid all over the world, but we found you. You went to the dark web thinking that your actions were anonymous, but they were not, and once again we found you. Now you operate with cryptocurrencies, thinking again that it would be anonymous, but our agents have shown once again that there is nowhere to hide. We will not stop in our search.