Child Smut Business Going Underground : Grows Uglier as Customers Trade Children, Not Just Pictures, Police Say
The dirty magazines have all but disappeared.
But the child pornography business has managed to stay alive by burrowing further underground in response to international efforts to eradicate it.
In fact, police say, child pornography has grown even uglier as customers become the pornographers and trade children, not just lewd pictures.
Child pornography, which has plagued most societies, only became big business in this country in the early 1970s, when community restrictions began easing. It was a featured item for obscenity dealers, grossing as much as $1 billion a year, according to police.
In response to the flood of explicit material, a 1977 federal law made it illegal to commercially disseminate child pornography.
But the pornographer and his product only changed. The problem did not go away.
Magazines Are Gone
As law enforcement efforts intensified, commercially produced magazines such as Lollitots, Baby Love and Nudist Moppets--in which children as young as 3 years old were shown performing sex acts with adults--have virtually vanished from adult bookstore shelves. Movies in which toddlers are the stars are rarely shown openly in X-rated theaters. Organized crime, for the most part, turned its attention to the adult pornography trade, where the profits are bigger and the risks smaller.
To fill the void, child pornography customers themselves have become pornographers, creating a thriving cottage industry that creates its own pornography and distributes it through an informal but extensive underground network both here and abroad, law enforcement officials say. Their efforts are aided by new technologies in videotapes and computers.
And the business is getting even uglier, says Kenneth J. Herrmann Jr., board president of New York-based Defense for Children International U.S.A., who recently reported on the subject to UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund.
No longer content to sell and trade pictures of children, child pornographers are now selling and trading the children themselves, Herrmann said. Newest industry innovations include computerized sex bulletin boards that list children for sale, tour agencies that organize child sex vacations for pedophiles, and even underground agencies where pedophiles can formally adopt foreign children for sexual use, including pornography.
While some pornographers are still in the business for money, police believe that most are trading for personal use. Their products--homemade movies and videotapes, photographs, crudely crafted scrapbooks and pen-pal letters--lack the “professional polish” of the pre-1977 pornography produced by big-time operators, the police who track it down say. But what the material lacks in quality it has made up for in quantity.
In 1984, the federal Child Protection Act addressed itself to this cottage industry, making any type of child pornography exchange a crime, including trading and gift giving. The law also increased the age of child protection from 16 to 18 and removed the requirement that sexually explicit materials depicting children had to be declared legally obscene. It also authorized wiretaps and provided for the seizure of profits and equipment used by pornographers.
But child pornography simply went further underground.
“They trade it like baseball cards,” said Phil Renzulli, a U.S. postal inspector in Washington.
“It is everywhere,” said Detective Bill Dworin of the Los Angeles Police Department’s sexually exploited children unit.
“But they (pornographers) are more cautious now; it is more challenging to catch them.” As a result, he said, police must now do a great deal more undercover work, setting up elaborate and time-consuming written correspondence with pedophiles.
Many law enforcement officers believe that the federal law must be taken a step further, making mere possession of child pornography a felony. California has no such law, but six other states do.
In January, a federal task force visited the big pornography-exporting countries of Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark to organize a joint law enforcement and legislative program to help stem the flow of pornography from those countries.
In June, U.S. Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III created a national Commission on Pornography to study new ways to control it. Meese noted that pornography is becoming more plentiful, more violent and more accessible.
Sen. William V. Roth (R-Del.), chairman of the Senate permanent subcommittee on investigations, said last spring: “It’s chilling to realize that every photo on every page of every child pornography magazine . . . is a permanent record of the works of a child molester.”
Those who purchase and trade child pornography are usually child molesters, according to psychologists and the police. This fact has provided an effective tool--the use of international mail seizures by U.S. Customs and sting operations by U.S. postal inspectors--to find some molesters. Customs, which examines all incoming mail from high-risk countries, has given special attention to Denmark and the Netherlands because 85% of all commercially produced child pornography is imported from those countries.
Arrested With Evidence
Last year, Customs agents snared a Pennsylvania disc jockey when he ordered and received a book on child pornography. Customs delivered the book and discovered evidence that the man had molested more than 60 children. He later pleaded guilty to child molestation charges.
So far this year, Customs has seized 2,500 pieces of pornography (75% of it at Kennedy International Airport in New York, 17% in Oakland), almost half of which involved children.
Since passage of the Child Protection Act in 1984, Customs has opened 166 investigations, resulting in 29 federal felony convictions and 38 state convictions, officials said. This compares with one federal and five state convictions in 1983.
U.S. Postal Inspection Service arrests and convictions also have increased significantly. Last year there were 114 arrests and 76 convictions, compared to 33 arrests and 28 convictions in 1982. While postal inspectors cannot seize mail without a search warrant, they do conduct “controlled deliveries,” in which they deliver the pornography and then arrest the recipient.
Typical of what has happened to the big pornography publications is Lolita magazine, which used to be printed monthly in the Netherlands, according to Sgt. R. P. (Toby) Tyler of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. In 1980 the issues started coming out irregularly, and the last issue contained only four photographs that were not used in previous issues. During the late 1970s, there were as many as 400 magazines in distribution that dealt in child pornography. Because of the clandestine nature of the business, no one has exact figures on how profitable the business was. Los Angeles police investigators estimated that profits from these magazines, movies and child prostitution ran as high as $1 billion a year. However, with the commercial aspects of the business waning, the figures are thought to be much lower today.
Key Figure Arrested
Commercial distribution of child pornography was dealt a serious blow with the imprisonment in 1982 of Catherine Stubblefield Wilson, a Los Angeles woman who police and Customs agents said had a client list of 30,000 names and was making $500,000 a year in both adult and child pornography.
Wilson’s customers sent their orders to a Denmark address. Her partners would then send those orders to Wilson and deposit the money in bank accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands. Wilson mailed the material from many post offices across the country, according to federal prosecutors. Law enforcement officers find few films coming into the country today, because most pedophiles now make their own movies with inexpensive video equipment.
In recent months, a multiagency task force on pornography has been organized in the Los Angeles area, according to Joyce Karlin, assistant U.S. attorney. While her agency has worked informally for years with pornography experts from the Postal Inspection Service, the FBI, Customs and local police departments, they decided that the increase in child pornography warranted a more concerted effort. Now they meet weekly to plot strategy. “They (the pornographers) are well organized too,” Karlin said, explaining that many of them exchange newsletters and correspondence to warn each other about which pornographers have been arrested and provide identities of police infiltrators.
Pedophiles also use this correspondence network to organize “referral services,” such as the Childhood Sensuality Circle of San Diego, which was recently broken up by sheriff’s deputies. While the group called itself a children’s rights organization, deputies said that at least 30 members from around the country have been arrested on child sex charges, and that in practice the group developed into little more than a contact service for acquiring new material and victims, police said.
Sex Relations Espoused
Two small groups that espouse sex relations with consenting children are the Los Angeles-based Rene Guyon Society and the New York City-based North American Man-Boy Love Assn.
The New York organization is a support group for people who are involved in “consensual intergenerational relationships,” said John Fisch, a board member. “We don’t advocate . . . but we do offer support of people who are oppressed because of the relationships.”
However, police say that there have been a number of child molestation and pornography cases nationwide involving men affiliated with the man-boy group.
Experts say pedophiles do feel genuine affection for their victims.
Need for Affection
“Kids need affection and attention and if parents don’t give it, the kids will accept it from the pedophile,” said the Los Angeles Police Department’s Dworin. “A pedophile doesn’t purposefully hurt a child. Even when they suspect the child is going to tell on them, they’d rather flee than harm that child.”
Nicholas Groth, co-director of Somers State Prison’s sex offender program in Connecticut, agrees. “Most sex offenders I’ve treated were not cruel or indifferent toward children. In fact, they were over-invested emotionally in the child and tried to fulfill in that relationship all the attention, friendship, affection and power that was missing from their lives.”
Most child molesters are emotionally troubled, not mentally ill, and many were molested and abused as children, Groth said. Sex offenders are not considered curable, but are treatable with drug therapy, psychotherapy and behavior modification, according to Groth.
Joseph F. Henry is part of such a treatment program at Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino County.
When he first saw Leona in the summer of 1948 in New York City, she was wearing a blue and yellow polka dot dress, her brown hair was wrapped in pigtails, she was barefoot and she was buying candy in a corner grocery store, he said. He was 14. She was 8.
Turned to Others
And while he never touched Leona, he had her in mind over the next 30 years as he molested 22 other little girls.
“I destroyed the childhood of those little girls,” he said during a recent interview at the hospital, where he is incarcerated as a mentally disordered sex offender. “I don’t want to do that anymore. But I know I’ll always have to stay away from children.”
Asthmatic, shy and friendless, Henry was raised by an overprotective aunt, he said. When he was 12, he said, he was molested by a neighbor.
He said he used the same techniques. “Kids want someone to pay attention to them. I bought them things like record players and books.” In particular, he remembers a “talking” doll that he bought for a 10-year-old girl. He said the first child he ever “forced” to have sex was a young girl he met at a nudist camp where he was working. “I don’t think I’ll ever forget the terror on her face,” he said. But for the most part, he said, “If a kid said ‘No,’ I didn’t touch them.”
It was not until he was in his 30s that he began buying child pornography. “But it didn’t prevent me from going out and molesting children. In fact, it may have triggered even more of it.”
In one magazine, he answered a pen pal ad and received a letter from John Duncan, who was the central figure in a child pornography ring.
“I was desperate for someone to understand my obsession with children,” Henry said of the letters he wrote to Duncan, who was later convicted of child molestation. “I would sign them: A fellow little girl lover.”
In 1976, Henry said, he flew to California and Duncan took the little girls to a motel room. He recalls taking the girls to a park and pushing them on the swings, while Duncan arranged with a father to keep another 8-year-old girl overnight for $100. “After sex, I took her out for dinner and bought her toys and games,” Henry said.
In 1977, Henry said, he met Eric Cross, publisher of Lollitots magazine, who later served prison time. One evening in Los Angeles while they were looking at photos of naked children that Cross was sending to Canada, they were arrested. Henry was released but was arrested again in New York City a short time later. He was one of nine men indicted by the Los Angeles County Grand Jury in 1978 on child molestation charges stemming from the sex-ring encounters.
Only the Beginning
According to James J. Ferruzo, who prosecuted the case, the ring controlled approximately 16 children, ranging in age from 3 to 16. Most were from single-parent families or were the children of ring members. Although the nine were convicted, Ferruzo said, “We felt we had only scratched the tip of the iceberg.”
Henry said that what most amazed him all those years was the gullibility of the parents of his many victims.
“They didn’t ask questions when I spent hours and hours with their children and gave them gifts. And even more surprising, when they found out what I was doing, they didn’t call the cops,” he said. “They just told me to get lost. Which left me free to find other children.”