The FBI’s Online Sex Crime Sting in Houston
Surfing the Dark Web.
The Onion Router or TOR is a dark-web browser that helps some criminals, for example, those in possession of child pornography, to hide their internet identity or IP address. By hiding within this murky anonymity, those who share images of young infants displayed in sexually appealing or explicit poses, are able to conceal their illegal habits.
The FBI recently hacked into a dark website known as *PlayWithMe. As a result of this watershed “sting” operation, seven men, among others, were charged in a court in Houston. [*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the children whose images were shared.]
A Texas Lawyer, Jarred Hanson, has said that “This society cannot and will not tolerate this type of abhorrent and perverted behavior.”
What Type of Men Visited the Site?
Mr. Jarrod Hanson, a Lawyer from Texas, was in close contact with the FBI who used a hacking tool to break into the PlayWithMe site. He says that-
“The perception is that it’s mainly white-collar workers who log on to child pornography sites, though in fact men from all economic levels were captured by Federal agents.”
“As to why some men prefer this type of stimulation, the reasons are complex. Some immature men may feel that a child presents less of a threat to their self-image than an adult woman would.”
How Does the FBI Catch Criminals Who Possess Child Pornography?
Jarrod Hanson was willing to elaborate on some of the methods that then FBI uses to catch child pornographers, although some of their methods cannot be revealed to the general public.
“The FBI is constantly working to catch these criminals,” he said. “They may search the internet using keywords that appear when users search for child porn sites, or they may pose online as young children. They also use the technique of posing as a person who is interested in viewing child pornography.”
What Happened in the PlayWithMe Case?
The FBI used some unique methods to crack the PlayWithMe case. Once they had learned that the IP address of the PlayWithMe site seemed to lead to an address in the USA, Federal agents seized the computer that the site was running on and kept it running for a further two weeks, thus gaining many personal IP addresses. Once they had received a Search warrant the FBI was able to send malware called NIT to thousands of computers worldwide. The Federal agents were then able to arrest many of the PlayWithMe site’s users.
How Houston, TX Men Were Arrested?
Six of the men arrested in the PlayWithMe operation were from Houston Texas. One of these is a local pediatrician. The other men who will be tried in the Southern District of Texas also held responsible positions as follows: a bank executive, a college professor and a professional in the IT industry.
What Will Happen to the Accused?
While these cases may be in dispute because of the methods used by the FBI to track the criminals involved, all cases which comprise of the exploitation of children have severe consequences. Those who are convicted can receive prison terms of ten to twenty years. The label Sex Offender is applied to those who are convicted of this type of crime.
Mr. Jarrod Hanson has this to say-
“While the sentence handed down to a man who is in possession of images that depict child pornography may depend on the number of images or videos that are found, child pornography is considered a very serious offense in Texas and the whole of the USA. Federal agents and local lawyers in Houston have every intention of charging these criminals with the maximum number of years that the law allows.”