CBS News reports that Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Department Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the unsealing of three indictments and a complaint charging 72 persons for involvement in an online child pornography ring spanning five continents. According to the Justice Department, 52 of the individuals have already been arrested. Thirteen of the individuals charged have already pleaded guilty and four of them have received prison terms of between 20 and 30 years.

The investigation leading up the arrests, launched two years ago, found that the operation involved hundreds of individuals in various countries. The point of contact was an online private, members-only bulletin board called “Dreamboard” which created to promote pedophilia and sexual abuse of young children.

Members of the online community used aliases and screen names and used encryption software to prevent law enforcement from recovering the pornographic images and videos.

Members of “Dreamboard” apparently traded images and videos of adults sexually abusing children. Images showing the abuse were reportedly numerous. One of the requirements of membership on “Dreamboard” is the regular submission of pornographic images of children 12 years and below. Members who submitted more images had more access to the site’s content.

The investigation leading up to Tuesday’s announcement is reportedly the largest prosecution of individuals for online child exploitation. The U.S. Attorney General’s Office is reportedly partnering with agencies in other countries to seek out and arrest the other individuals involved in the porn ring.

Individuals charged with child pornography, like rape defendants, often face very strong prosecution efforts by government officials. Those facing charges of child pornography do well to have an advocate on their side who can render them the best defense possible.

Source: CBS News, “72 charged in online child porn ring,” August 3, 2011.