CHICAGO (Reuters) - U.S. and Canadian law enforcement officials said on Wednesday they had cracked an international pornography ring that featured live molestations of children streamed over the Internet.
Twenty-seven people from nine U.S. states and Canada, Australia and Britain have been charged with possession, receipt, distribution and manufacture of child pornography, and all but one have been arrested, according to U.S. federal authorities and Canadian police.
One of those arrested has been held since January, while others were arrested as recently as Tuesday. The one who remains at large is considered a fugitive, officials said.
"This international undercover investigation revealed an insidious network that engaged in worldwide trafficking in child pornography, including live molestations of children transmitted over the Internet," U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said in a statement released ahead of a visit to Chicago.
Authorities have identified seven child victims, including an infant whose molestation in April by a suburban Chicago man was transmitted live via an Internet chat room to a co-conspirator who used the screen name "Big_Daddy619."
Four of those charged allegedly molested the children, making the resulting images available in the chat room called "Kiddypics & Kiddyvids," that facilitated trading of thousands of images and videos, the statement said.
Manufacturing child pornography carries a minimum 15-year prison sentence, while the other charges call for minimum sentences of at least five years.