One hundred people have been arrested as part of an undercover sting investigation into the largest known commercial child pornography business ever uncovered, U.S. government officials said today.
The two-year investigation began with Landslide Productions Inc., a Fort Worth, Texas, company owned by Thomas and Janice Reedy. Authorities said the company was at the center of an international child pornography business that distributed lewd pictures of children having sex to subscribers over the Internet. The porn sites were run by operators in Russia and Indonesia. Warrants have been issued for their arrest. The Reedys were charged in an 89-count federal indictment with conspiracy to distribute and possession of child pornography.
30 Agencies Involved in Undercover Operation
Landslide grossed as much as $1.4 million in one month alone, the profits coming from monthly fees viewers paid to access child pornography Web sites, authorities said. Called Operation Avalanche, the undercover operation was based on intelligence developed from the Landslide investigation and encompassed 30 federally funded task forces formed to combat Internet crimes against children.
"During an Operation Avalanche search, we found a collection of videotapes produced by a suspect depicting the sexual abuse of several young girls. One of the girls was only 4 years old," said Chief Postal Inspector Kenneth C. Weaver. He said the suspect had worked as a computer consultant. Pornography also was distributed through the mail, Weaver said. The Reedys were convicted last year on charges that included sexual exploitation of minors and distribution of child pornography. A federal judge on Monday sentenced Thomas Reedy, 37, to life in prison and his 32-year-old wife, Janice, to 14 years in prison. Landslide provided a credit card verification service that admitted customers into Web sites containing graphic pictures and videos of children engaging in sex acts with adults and with each other, the government charged.
Website Had 250,000 Subscribers
Landslide charged customers $29.95per month for access and netted more than $1 million between 1997 and 1999, the government said. The Web site had about 250,000 subscribers. Holmes said authorities tracked down some of them using electronic and credit card information gathered in an investigation conducted by the postal inspection service, U.S. Customs Service, the FBI and the Dallas Police Department. It is illegal to possess child pornography. Authorities said the Reedys kept 40 percent of the profits and gave the operators in Russia and Indonesia 60 percent.