British police smash global pedophile ring, arrest 700 people; 31 children rescued - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

British police smash global pedophile ring, arrest 700 people; 31 children rescued

LONDON (AP) -- British police, with aid from U.S. investigators, have shattered a global Internet pedophile ring, rescuing 31 children and rounding up more than 700 suspects worldwide, authorities said Monday.

Some 200 suspects are based in Britain, said the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center, a government agency. Of the 31 children, some only a few months old, more than 15 were in Britain, the center said.

British authorities would not break down where the other suspects or children came from. A Canadian official said 24 Canadians were arrested and seven children rescued, but added that the time period was longer than the more than 10 months the British said their portion of the investigation lasted. U.S. officials declined to comment because their investigation is continuing.

The ring was traced to an Internet chat room called "Kids the Light of Our Lives" that featured images of children being subjected to horrific sexual abuse -- including streaming live videos.

Authorities said they used surveillance tactics normally used against terrorism suspects and drug traffickers to infiltrate the pedophile ring at its highest level.

Officials also said the United States, Canada and Australia were Britain's main partners in the investigation, which involved agencies from 35 countries.

Investigators with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said they could not immediately comment on the arrests because the U.S. investigation, spanning at least 12 states, is ongoing.

Toronto police conducted online surveillance along with British police, said Detective Sgt. Kim Scanlan of the Toronto police sex crimes unit. She said 24 Canadians were arrested and seven Canadian children rescued since late 2005.

"Every arrest we make we seize computers and information so there are a number of ongoing investigations," Scanlan said. "There's just been great cooperation. It's a good day, but it's one day out of many."

The host of the chat room, Timothy David Martyn Cox, 27, of Buxhall, who used the online identity "Son of God," admitted to nine counts of possessing and distributing indecent images, authorities said.

Cox was given an indeterminate jail sentence Monday at a court in eastern England. That means he will remain in prison until authorities determine he is no longer a threat to children.

"Today's verdict serves as a powerful warning to those using the Internet to facilitate the sexual exploitation of children," said Jim Gamble, the child protection center's chief executive.

Cox was identified after intelligence linking the chat room to Britain was passed on to the child protection center by Canadian authorities in August 2006. The center is an agency under the purview of the Home Office that is made up of officers with special experience in tracking and prosecuting sex offenders.

After Cox's arrest on Sept. 28, 2006, British, Canadian and Australian authorities were able to infiltrate the chat room and collect evidence on the other members. Officers posed as contributors and even pretended to be Cox, running the chat room for 10 days.

At no point did officers distribute illegal images.

Forensic teams examining Cox's computer found 75,960 indecent and explicit images in addition to evidence that he had supplied 11,491 images to other site users.

A man described as Cox's lieutenant, Gordon Mackintosh, tried to resurrect the chat room in January. Authorities in Britain, Canada, Australia and the U.S. again infiltrated the operation.

Upon Mackintosh's arrest in January, authorities assumed his identity online and ran the chat room for three days while collecting information on offenders who traded images.

Mackintosh, 33, has pleaded guilty to 27 charges of making, possessing and distributing indecent images and videos. He is awaiting sentencing.