PALM BEACH, FL – The largest child exploitation website on the Internet “Welcome to Video” which, according to GitHub was using a dark-web address of “mt3plrzdiyqf6jim.onion” was seized and/or shut down last week resulting in over 300 arrests. According to the Department of Justice, the service was the largest child sexual exploitation market by volume of content.
Particularly interesting was the way the sites owners were traced as I have been contemplating my first fictional book (based on a really cool domain name) which would take down a site, by way of tracing bitcoin transactions, but for the story, I have no idea how that would be done. This is the first time I’ve heard of it happening which can be a good addition to my story if I do take the time to write it (or hire a ghost writer) of exactly how that can be accomplished.
Through the sophisticated tracing of bitcoin transactions, IRS-CI special agents were able to determine the location of the Darknet server, identify the administrator of the website and ultimately track down the website server’s physical location in South Korea,” said IRS-CI Chief Don Fort. “This largescale criminal enterprise that endangered the safety of children around the world is no more. Regardless of the illicit scheme, and whether the proceeds are virtual or tangible, we will continue to work with our federal and international partners to track down these disgusting organizations and bring them to justice.”
According to Forbes and the IRS-CI (The Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division), agents became aware of Welcome to Video, from their work on previous dark web marketplaces,
Our agency’s ability to analyze the blockchain and de-anonymize bitcoin transactions allowed for the identification of hundreds of predators around the world.”
According to the press release the investigation developed leads sent to 38 countries and yielded arrests of 337 subjects around the world. Data from the seizure which is being analyzed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) contained over 250,000 unique videos with 45 percent of them considered “new images” that had not been previously known to exist.
The agencies have shared data from the seized server with law enforcement around the world to assist in identifying and prosecuting customers of the site. This has resulted in leads sent to 38 countries and yielded arrests of 337 subjects around the world. The operation has resulted in searches of residences and businesses of approximately 92 individuals in the United States. Notably, the operation is responsible for the rescue of at least 23 minor victims residing in the United States, Spain and the United Kingdom, who were being actively abused by the users of the site.
Visitors to the site were met with this seizure notice:
The press release about the investigation and take-down lists 36 U.S. residents who were apprehended with two who committed suicide subsequent to the execution of search warrants.
The complaint alleges that law enforcement was able to trace payments of bitcoin to the Darknet site by following the flow of funds on the block-chain. The international investigation was led by the IRS-CI, HSI (Homeland Security Investigations) the NCA (National Communication Association [NATCOM]) and included a slew of other agencies around the world.
About The Author: John Colascione is Chief Executive Officer of Internet Marketing Services Inc. He specializes in Website Monetization, is a Google AdWords Certified Professional, authored a ‘how to’ book called ”Mastering Your Website‘, and is a key player in several Internet related businesses through his search engine strategy brand Searchen Networks®