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      ICE: Charleston man pleads guilty in largest child porn case in US history

      Christopher Blackford (provided)

      CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- According to a release from the Department of Homeland Security U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), two men have pleaded guilty to felony charges of taking part in an international child pornography network.

      Officials say the network, called Dreamboard, produced and distributed "depictions of graphic child sexual abuse" over the Internet.

      So far, 47 people have already pleaded guilty, officials said, making Dreamboard the "largest child pornography bulletin board prosecution in U.S. history" brought on by a global investigation called Operation Delego which was launched in 2009.

      Christopher Blackford, 28, of Charleston, pleaded guilty to participating in Dreamboard and faces 20 years to life in prison, a $250,000 fine, and five years of supervised release.

      According to court documents, Blackford admitted he joined Dreamboard in December 2009 and contributed 84 posts to the online bulletin board that contained child pornography.

      The second man, 39-year-old William Davis of Bristol, N.H., pleaded guilty to conspiracy to advertise child pornography and faces 15 to 30 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and at least five years of supervised release for his role in Dreamboard. The ICE release says Davis admitted in his guilty plea that he posted advertisements offering to distribute child pornography to other members of the board.

      Blackford and Davis are scheduled to be sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana on July 29.

      "The sexual abuse of innocent children is one of the most unconscionable violations of trust imaginable," said HSI New Orleans Special Agent in Charge Raymond R. Parmer Jr. "Investigating and prosecuting the perpetrators of these horrendous crimes is one of our highest priorities and HSI will continue to work with its law enforcement partners to bring these criminals to justice." Parmer oversees a five-state region including Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.

      ICE officials explain that Dreamboard was a members-only online bulletin board "created and operated to promote pedophilia and encourage the sexual abuse of young children in an environment designed to avoid law enforcement detection."

      According to court documents, Dreamboard members traded graphic images and videos of adults molesting children. Prospective members had to create and share child pornography to gain entry into the group and to maintain membership once accepted. Dreamboard members employed a variety of measures designed to conceal their criminal activity from detection by law enforcement.

      Members communicated using aliases rather than their actual names and content posted on Dreamboard was encrypted with a password shared only with other members. Members also employed proxy servers to route the group's Internet traffic through other computers in an attempt prevent law enforcement from tracing Internet activity.

      Dreamboard by the numbers according to ICE:

      • A total of 72 individuals, including Blackford and Davis, have been charged as a result of Operation Delego, which is the largest prosecution in United States history of an online bulletin board network dedicated to child sexual abuse.
      • Fifty-seven of these individuals have been arrested; 47 defendants have pleaded guilty for their roles in the conspiracy and an additional defendant was convicted after a trial.
      • Fifteen of the 72 charged individuals remain at large and are known only by their online identities. HSI continues to investigate the case in an effort to identify and apprehend these remaining individuals.

      Operation Delego was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers.

      HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423 or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.

      Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-843-5678.

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