In Seattle, police arrested 24 people as part of the national sweep dubbed "Operation Broken Heart." Of those, nine face federal prosecution in U.S. District Court.
More than 2,300 people were arrested across the country as part of “Operation Broken Heart,” a nationwide operation to identify and disrupt those who produce, trade and view online images and videos of children being raped and molested, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Tuesday.
In Washington, 47 suspects were arrested, and of those, nine face federal prosecution in U.S. District Court, says a DOJ news release. The remainder will face charges in the state’s superior courts.
The three-month operation ending in May was a concerted effort by 61 Internet Crimes Against Children task forces in all 50 states that targeted peer-to-peer networks that facilitate the sharing of images of child-sex abuse, according to the news release. Each task force is made up of local, state, federal and tribal law enforcement officers. Of the suspects arrested, 195 either committed or produced images of child sex abuse, the release says.
Additionally, police identified 383 children who are victims of sexual abuse, according to the release.
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Emily Langlie, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle, said four of the nine federal cases allegedly arose from peer-to-peer file sharing involving suspects in Western Washington. The other five cases involve suspects living in Eastern Washington, she said.
The suspects in the four Western Washington cases all have prior convictions for child rape, child molestation or possession of depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, court records show. The four suspects live in Seattle, Anacortes, Tacoma and Olympia, the federal complaints say.
Of the thousands of images found on the suspects’ electronic devices, a handful are described in charging documents and involve infants to prepubescent girls. During a search of one man’s home, police also found a child sex doll, the records say.
The Seattle Police Department reported officers and agents arrested 24 suspects locally — a number that includes the four suspects being charged in U.S. District Court as well as 17 cases that will be prosecuted in King County Superior Court, according to the department’s online blotter.
Investigators here also identified 14 victims of child sex abuse during the course of the operation, says the blotter post.
Several of the court cases filed locally reference suspects’ use of BitTorrent, a peer-to-peer protocol that allows users to share files. BitTorrent has been known to be used by child pornographers and other criminals because large amounts of digital content can be moved and sorted, The Associated Press reported last month.
On its website, the San Francisco-based company claims its products are used by more than 170 million people a month and its protocols move as much as 40 percent of the world’s daily Internet traffic. BitTorrent is used legitimately by academics and artists, according to The Associated Press.