Aug 3, 2011 11:53 PM by Maddie Garrett
It's being called the largest international prosecution of child exploitation the U.S. has ever seen. So far, 72 people are charged with participating in an online child pornography ring called Dreamboard.
Some of the details of the investigation are graphic and could be disturbing. Prosecutors said there could be hundreds of victims, almost all under the age of 13, being portrayed in often violent videos and images of sexual abuse. And the case originated in Louisiana.
"When we first began investigating the case we couldn't identify the members of the board..The first member of the board we identified was a guy named Edward Oedewaldt who was in Arcadia, Louisiana, and that's the reason the case is being prosecuted here," explained Assistant U.S. Attorney Luke Walker.
Walker, who works at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Lafayette, is the head of Project Safe Childhood for the Western District of Louisiana. He said Oedewaldt was a high ranking member of Dreamboard, and the key to dismantling the site. Oedewaldt was arrested in April 2010 for his involvement in another online child porn ring based in Indiana, as part of "Operation Nest Egg." That investigation and Oedewaldt's connection is what led law enforcement to Dreamboard.
"It is as far reaching as any case I've ever prosecuted or been aware of. We've arrested people all over the world, all of the United states and all over the world. It's an incredibly far reaching case," said Walker.
Authorities believe there are more 500 members of Dreamboard, from 13 countries, spanning five continents. U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley said the 72 currently indicted are the primary members. Authorities are still working to identify and locate other members.
"The individuals identified in this indictment were the primary people. They were the administrators or some of the high ranking members, but the investigation is ongoing," said Finley.
Dreamboard was brought down in August 2010. The private bulletin board required passwords, had rules and a hierarchy. Someone who participated on Dreamboard could be ranked from the lowest level of "member" to "VIP", "Super VIP" and even "Super VIP.". The more pictures and video a member provided, the more content they were allowed to access.
Members were also deleted from the site if the failed to contribute explicit content to Dreamboard for a certain amount of time.
According to Federal court documents, very young children, violence, and content created by users were highly valued. The U.S. Attorney's Office said that "In many cases the children being victimized were in obvious and also intentional pain, even in distress and crying."
Walker said they have identified dozens of victims and are working to find more.
"There are many many victims in this case. I couldn't even guess the numbers, both here and abroad, it's staggering," said Walker.
The case will be prosecuted in Shreveport in the Western District of Louisiana. At this time, 20 of the 72 indicted have not been arrested yet. Sentences for these crimes run from a minimum of 20 years in prison to life in prison, as well as supervised release and a $250,000 fine.