Darknet Child Exploitation Business: Four Men Pan Countries Prisoned


The lead administrator and the creator of a highly sophisticated Tor-network based website have been dedicated to the child exploitation and was sentenced imprisonment on Friday along with three other accused of their respective roles in this global child exploitation enterprise.

Image Source: www.propublica.org

The accused have been identified as Patrick D. Falte, 29, of Franklin, Tennessee, who was sentenced to 35 years in prison for engaging in a child exploitation enterprise, three counts of advertising child pornography, and three counts of distributing child pornography. The other accused have been identified as Benjamin A. Faulkner, 28 years old, of Ontario, Canada, was sentenced to 35 years in prison; Andrew R. Leslie, 24 years of age, belonging to Middleburg, Florida, was sentenced to 30 years in prison; and Brett A. Bedusek, 35 years of age, of Cudahy, Wisconsin, was sentenced to 20 years in prison, all for engaging in a child exploitation enterprise, by Chief U.S. District Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw of the Middle District of Tennessee. Additionally, the judge has also sentenced each of the accused to a lifetime of supervised release.  Falte had previously been pleaded guilty to the charges in June 2018, and Faulkner, Leslie, and Bedusek had been pleaded guilty in November 2018.

In July of 2015, Falte had created a website called the “Giftbox Exchange” as a Tor hidden service, meaning that it could only be accessed by users through the Tor anonymity network.  Falte had paid for the operation of the site using the most used Cryptocurrency, Bitcoin.  He has acted as the lead administrator of the site and had established rules that required users to upload and share images and videos depicting the pre-teen children being sexually abused before they could access the site. The website was organized into different forums for posting different types of child pornography, categorized by the age range of the minor victims and included a sub-forum for “Babies & Toddlers.”  During the time when the website was shut down in November 2016, it had more than 72,000 registered users and 56,000 posts in total.  In addition to operating the website on the Tor network—which is known to mask the internet protocol addresses of the users — Falte and his co-conspirators used other advanced technological means to thwart the law enforcement efforts, including file encryption and cryptography.

Image Source : altoday.com

Faulkner had joined the Giftbox Exchange back in September 2015 and also became an administrator of the site.  In addition to his administration of Giftbox Exchange, he has created and administered another Tor network-based hidden service website dedicated to sexual child exploitation, which grew to host over 200,000 users.  Faulkner has also created and administered a separate Tor hidden service that has been reserved for producers of child pornography.  Leslie, in addition to his membership on the Giftbox Exchange, himself ran yet another Tor network-based hidden service website that explicitly allowed the images and videos depicting graphic and violent sexual abuse of children.  Bedusek, who has a prior federal conviction for the receipt of child pornography and engaged in activity on Giftbox Exchange while on federal supervised release for that offense, was identified to be a VIP member of Giftbox Exchange which gave him access to a special area of the site, and a moderator on one of the hidden services created by Faulkner.

Adding to running an online network that has been dedicated to child exploitation, Falte and Faulkner were sentenced on September 2017 to life imprisonment by Judge John A. Gibney, Jr., of the Eastern District of Virginia, in connection with the sexual abuse of a toddler-aged minor to whom they gained access through an individual they met through the Giftbox Exchange. They have traveled to abuse that minor on multiple occasions.  Faulkner has also separately traveled to Texas and sexually abused a toddler and produced child pornography of an infant illegally.  In March 2018, Leslie was sentenced to 60 years of imprisonment to be followed by a lifetime of the supervised release by U.S. District Judge Brian J. Davis of the Middle District of Florida, in connection with his sexual abuse and production of the child pornography involving multiple children, including an infant and a toddler.

The case was then investigated by U.S. Immigration and as well as the Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the High Technology Investigative Unit of the Child exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS).  CEOS Trial Attorney named Lauren E. Britsch and Assistant U.S. Attorneys named S. Carran Daughtrey and Byron M. Jones of the Middle District of Tennessee prosecuted the case. This case was brought as part of the Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child exploitation from the sexual aspect and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and CEOS, the Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.

Source: DOJ

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