The FBI’s Operation Kick Boxer resulted in dozens of arrests of distributors and manufactures of child sexual abuse materials across the United States and in Canada, the United Kingdom, Romania and France. The month-long, inter-agency investigation saved 18 children from sexual exploitation, according to the Justice Department.
Robert E. Hughes, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the Milwaukee Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), underlined the pervasive effort from the top to eliminate this scourge.
“The effort to find and stop pedophiles and recover kids is ongoing and continuous,” SAC Hughes said in a statement. “Our agents, intelligence analysts, professional staff, and victim specialists work tirelessly before, during, and after these operations to make sure that victims get the help, they need to reclaim their lives.”
The operation involved 63 law enforcement agencies working on FBI Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Forces in each of the Bureau’s 56 field offices and via the FBI’s Legal Attaché Offices throughout the world.
The sweep included undercover operations and led to the opening of over five dozen federal and international criminal investigations. Agents and analysts at FBI Milwaukee worked closely with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) to coordinate and de-conflict these law enforcement operations.
“The FBI is fiercely focused on recovering child victims and arresting the individuals who exploit them,” Hughes said. “Through operations like this, the FBI helps child victims escape the abusive sexual exploitation occurring in their homes by people they trust.”
United States Attorney Matthew D. Krueger raised concern regarding the alarming rise in ‘potential child exploitation’ and said, “Operation Kick Boxer shows the Justice Department’s commitment to working with law enforcement partners at all levels to confront child exploitation aggressively.”
Winnebago County Sheriff John Matz said: “We are pleased to have our federal partners working with us on this priority operation. We recognize children are the most vulnerable population we serve and protecting them will always be of greatest importance to law enforcement.”
One of the ring leaders was an Oshkosh, WI man named, Martin E. McKeever who now faces two counts of having and sharing child pornography, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Monday. If convicted on both counts, McKeever could face 10 to 40 years in prison.
Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice began signaling that it was intent on cracking down on human trafficking and specifically, child trafficking and exploitation.
U.S. Attorney General (AG) William Barr and U.S. President Donald J. Trump has committed time, energy & allocated previously unheard of amounts of resources in pursuing and prosecuting human traffickers and protecting and helping the victims of such crimes.
No previous administration has been as aggressive toward this human tragedy as this one has, and the steady stream of major cases announced by the FBI show the effects of the policy.
In addition to the many local and regional busts, more proof of this aggressive stance can be seen in the DoJ’s crackdown on child exploitation via the dark web.
In October, a 23-year-old owner of the Welcome to Video (WTV) site had been charged and convicted in South Korea for the illegal distribution of child exploitation materials via the internet using Bitcoin and is currently in custody serving his sentence there.
The DOJ said 337 site users, including law enforcement officers, from 22 U.S. states and 11 countries around the world were arrested.
Ninety two individuals in the U.S. were involved and the investigation led to the rescue of at least 23 minor victims residing in the U.S., Spain and the U.K., who were being abused by the users of the site at the time.
The DoJ is not only interested in arrests and convictions, they are also very interested in providing assistance and support for the victims.
A forfeiture complaint was at the time in which law enforcement was able to use Chainanalysis software to trace payments of bitcoin to the Darknet site by following the flow of funds on the blockchain.
The virtual currency accounts identified in the complaint were allegedly used by 24 individuals in five countries to fund the website and promote the exploitation of children. The forfeiture complaint seeks to recover these funds and, ultimately through the restoration process, return the illicit funds to victims of the crime.
All of this adds up to a new normal where pedophiles can no longer hide and where every strong arm of the law is bent upon their capture.