Text: U.S., Russian Authorities Crack Online Child Porn Ring
(Arrests in United States, Russia; Web sites shut down)
The U.S. Customs Service March 26 announced four arrests in a joint U.S.-Russian investigation of an Internet scheme involving international videotape sales of child pornography. Operation Blue Orchid has led to arrests in Russia and the United States, with
ongoing investigations in several European countries.
"The global nature of the Internet demands a global response by law enforcement to protect innocent children, regardless of their nationalities," said Acting U.S. Customs Commissioner Charles Winwood in a Customs Service press release.
Almost a year ago, Moscow City Police sought assistance from U.S. officials in Russia to investigate a World Wide Web site -- known as Blue Orchid -- depicting the sexual and physical abuse of children. The U.S. Customs CyberSmuggling Center in Fairfax, Virginia, developed information that led Moscow authorities to suspects subsequently arrested. Pornographic videotapes, video duplication equipment and sales and shipping records were also seized in the raid on a suspect's residence.
From that arrest, Moscow authorities provided further leads to identify suspects in the United States who had purchased pornographic material from the Web site. On March 23, suspect Glenn Martikean was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges connected with the acquisition of pornographic material distributed by Blue Orchid.
Authorities in Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands also received information from Moscow City Police after the videotape distribution center was raided and are pursuing further investigations in their countries.
The investigation unfolded after Moscow authorities received training from the CyberSmuggling Center with funding from the U.S. Department of State. The bilateral training and investigative work has now resulted in shutdowns of three child pornography distribution networks.
U.S. CUSTOMS SERVICE
Monday, March 26, 2001
U.S. Customs Service, Russian Police Take
Down Global Child Pornography Web Site
4 Arrests, 15 Search Warrants Thus Far in U.S.; 5 Arrests in Russia
Washington, D.C. -- The U.S. Customs Service today announced four arrests and execution of 15 search warrants across the country in Operation Blue Orchid, an ongoing global investigation into a Russian Web site selling child pornography videotapes over the Internet and through the mail.
Working together Moscow City Police and U.S. Customs Media Services identified a group of Russian child pornographers engaged in the production and distribution of child pornography to customers in the United States and Europe. Moscow City Police have arrested five accused child pornographers and child molesters in Operation Blue Orchid.
"The United States Customs Service is working aggressively with law enforcement officials both here and abroad in making a worldwide assault on the producers, distributors and purchasers of child pornography sold over the Internet," said Acting U.S. Customs Commissioner Charles Winwood. "The global nature of the Internet demands a global response by law enforcement to protect innocent children, regardless of their nationalities."
In May 2000, Moscow City Police requested the assistance of the U.S. Customs Attach・in Moscow to identify and investigate the individuals responsible for an Internet Web site depicting the sexual and physical abuse of children. The U.S. Customs Attach・in Moscow subsequently contacted the U.S. Customs CyberSmuggling Center in Fairfax, Virginia, to request that the center conduct an undercover purchase from The Blue Orchid Web site allegedly operated by Russians, Sergey GARBKO and Vsevolod Solntsev-ELBE.
Following the undercover buy, analysts at the CyberSmuggling Center provided information to the U.S. Customs Attach・in Moscow, which led Moscow City Police to ELBE. Russian police detained ELBE and a 13-year-old boy in December 2000. Interviews of ELBE disclosed that he had transported the minor from Novokuybishevsk to Moscow for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Subsequently, Moscow City Police conducted a search of the subject's apartment and seized 400 videotapes, video duplication equipment, and sales and shipping records. The U.S. Customs Attach・in Moscow assisted in the search and seizure and provided technical assistance in the investigation of ELBE.
As a result of the December 2000 search, the U.S. Customs Attach・in Moscow forwarded information to U.S. Customs field offices in the United States, identifying a number of suspects who allegedly had ordered child pornography from the Blue Orchid Web site. Additionally, approximately 50 leads were sent to U.S. Customs Attach・offices around the world. To date, enforcement actions have been completed in Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Investigations currently are underway in a number of other European countries.
On January 26, 2001, the U.S. Customs Special Agent in Charge in Chicago, in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana, conducted a search of the home of Glenn Martikean, resulting in the seizure of videotapes, computer media and related documents. U.S. Customs agents later learned that, at the time of the search, Martikean was in Russia attempting to have sex with a child.
When Martikean arrived in the U.S., on January 31, 2001, he was arrested by U.S. Customs agents for child pornography violations, including child sex tourism. Martikean is suspected of having molested children between the ages of 10 and 14.
On March 23, 2001, a federal grand jury in the Northern District of Indiana indicted the first Blue Orchid suspect, Glenn Martikean, on violations involving the illegal importation of child pornography from Blue Orchid as well as interstate and foreign travel to engage in sexual activity with minors.
The following police departments assisted in the investigation of Martikean: Brown County, Wisconsin Sheriff's Office, Manitowoc County, Wisconsin Sheriff's Office, Hobart, Indiana Police Department, and the Portage, Indiana Police Department.
The Russian portion of the case culminated on March 2, 2001 with the arrest of Victor Razumov, AKA the "Punisher," on charges that he molested and sexually abused a fifteen-year-old boy during the making of two videos, "Thief's Punishment I and II." The movies depict forcible sex and painful sadomasochistic activity. The victim is visibly crying in both films.
In addition to the "Thief's Punishment" videos, Blue Orchid also advertised a series of movies called "Russian Flowers." Customs and Moscow City Police had previously identified the producers of the "Russian Flowers" child pornography series, but until now had not been able to determine the producers' involved in the making of the "Thief's Punishment" tapes.
The victims-mostly young boys from homeless or troubled families-were solicited and taken to Moscow. The producers used many of the boys repeatedly. Some of the films featured adults engaged in abusive sexual activity with the boys. Most of the victims came from the city of Novokuybishevsk, approximately 560 miles from Moscow.
Blue Orchid customers would wire cash, then e-mail the distributor with instructions on where to send the tape. The distributor would ship the videotape via private courier or the postal service. Prices ranged from $200-$300 per video. Records seized from the distributors indicate videotapes were shipped worldwide, but the majority was sent to the United States. U.S. Customs Attach・offices overseas are following up on leads in six European countries.
Customs officials credit the Moscow City Police in the take down of the Blue Orchid Web site, and the cooperation and assistance of many local and state law enforcement agencies and at least a dozen U.S. Attorney's Offices throughout the U.S.
Moscow City Police received training at the U.S. Customs CyberSmuggling Center in Fairfax, Virginia, in July 2000 on Internet child pornography investigative techniques. This training was funded by the U.S. Department of State.
Blue Orchid is the third child pornography distribution network to be taken down by U.S. Customs and Moscow City Police, including the Internet operation run by a Russian, Dmitry Kuznetsov, who distributed child pornography videos via e-mail solicitation. As a result of an undercover purchase by U.S. Customs in Oxnard, California, in November 1999 the Moscow City Police were able to identify Kuznetsov and arrested him in February 2000. As part of a Russian amnesty program, Kuznetsov was released from prison in September 2000.
The U.S. Customs Service has investigated the trafficking of child pornography since the 1970s, and began investigating computer and Internet child pornography in the 1980s. U.S. Customs has arrested more than 1,000 individuals since 1992 for offenses relating to the possession and/or trafficking in child pornography. Last year, U.S. Customs arrested 320 individuals for offenses relating to the possession and/or trafficking in child pornography.