27 indicted on child porn charges

March 16, 2006|By RUDOLPH BUSH | RUDOLPH BUSH,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

CHICAGO -- Twenty-seven people in the United States, Canada, Australia and Britain have been indicted on charges of using an Internet chat room to traffic in thousands of images of child pornography, including streaming live molestations over the Web, federal authorities announced yesterday.

"The behavior in these chat rooms and the images many of these defendants sent around the world through peer-to-peer file-sharing programs and private instant messaging services are the worst imaginable forms of child pornography," U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said.

The defendants include Brian A. Annoreno of Chicago, who prosecutors say molested an infant and transmitted it live to a Canadian viewer in Edmonton, Alberta.

"Seven victims of molestation have been identified. The youngest was less than 18 months old," Gonzales said at a news conference in Chicago to announce the charges.

A federal grand jury in Chicago returned two indictments late Tuesday after an international investigation of the "Kiddypics & Kiddyvids" chat room, officials said.

Thirteen people have been indicted in nine states on charges that include possession, receipt, distribution and manufacture of child pornography. The states are: Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New York, North Carolina and Tennessee. Fourteen foreigners have been charged in the probe, which originated in Canada.

Undercover investigators infiltrated the chat room, in which some defendants allegedly transmitted streaming video worldwide of live molestations through online instant messaging services, officials said.

According to the indictments, between April 2005 and March 10, Annoreno conspired with others to trade images of child pornography.

In April, Annoreno used an infant to produce child pornography that he transmitted live over the Internet and used the same infant in October to generate a pornographic photo that he sent to David B. Holst, 27, of North Aurora, Ill., authorities said.

Officials identified the primary host of the chat room as Royal Raymond Weller, also known as "G.O.D.," of Clarksville, Tenn. Weller was arrested March 6 in Tennessee on federal child pornography charges.

Lisa A. Winebrenner, 36, of Osceola, Iowa, took over the site after Weller's arrest, police said. Over the next two days, she allegedly destroyed evidence of child pornography on her computer and advised others to do likewise, authorities said. She was arrested Tuesday night in Iowa.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a unit of the Homeland Security Department, led the U.S. investigation.

Undercover agents gained entry to the chat room and identified the 27 people, initially through their screen names, officials said.

Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Julie Myers said investigators told her that this case was among the worst they've seen. "It's hard to find cases more heinous than those that involve child molestation," Myers said.

Gonzales has made crimes against children and online pornography top priorities for the Justice Department.

If found guilty of the child pornography charges, the defendants could face federal prison terms ranging from five years for conspiracy to 10 years for possessing, 20 years for distributing and receiving, and 30 years for manufacturing the illicit images.

Rudolph Bush writes for the Chicago Tribune. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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