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16 in global child porn ‘club’ indicted

Federal authorities Tuesday announced the indictments of 16 men who allegedly accessed a password-protected Internet forum on child pornography containing thousands of graphic images and videos of young boys.

The two-year investigation into the “Lost Boy” Internet group found that members were encouraged to regularly post sexually explicit photos of young boys to “remain in good standing” and not get removed from the online message board, according to the indictment.

Members of the site were given instructions on how to entice children into engaging in sexual activity, authorities said. The posts also gave members advice on how to move on to other victims when boys “grew too old,” said U.S. Atty. Andre Birotte Jr.

“This network was reserved for your most serious traders of child pornography and those … with a sexual interest in young boys,” he said. The pictures depicted children engaging in sexual activity with other children or men.

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The defendants were charged with child exploitation, possession of child pornography and other offenses. Most of the victims were 7 to 12 years old and included one 9-year-old boy with Down syndrome.

Authorities had been actively investigating the case even though they shut down the site two years ago. Defense attorneys asked a judge to block Tuesday’s announcement of the indictments but were denied, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles.

The initial tip in the case came in October 2008 when European authorities approached FBI agents in Copenhagen with information that a 25-year-old North Hollywood man, Harout Hagop Sarafian, allegedly had been communicating with an Italian national about how to obtain child pornography and engage in child sex tourism in Romania, said FBI Assistant Director in Charge Steven Martinez. Sarafian is in custody and awaiting trial.

Members of the Lost Boy site advised one another on techniques to evade law enforcement using screen names to mask their identities, Martinez said.

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Four defendants are from Southern California, authorities said, and several defendants are registered sex offenders.

One defendant, James Criscione, 53, of Atlanta, died in custody earlier this year. He was homeless and would access the site at public libraries, authorities said.

Eight men are awaiting trial and five have entered guilty pleas, including Justin Lee, 33, a Phoenix-based pediatric anesthesiologist who is awaiting sentencing for transporting child pornography, which carries a minimum sentence of five years in prison.

A second indictment names an additional 14 alleged Lost Boy members believed to be living in Brazil, Canada, France, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Half of those defendants have been identified only by their website screen names, Mrozek said.

The initial case has prompted dozens of spin-off investigations, authorities said.

“These investigations are about one thing: protecting children,” Birotte said. “You know when something is amiss, you feel it. Trust your gut.”

nardine.saad@latimes.com


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