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19 arrested in onlinechild porn case

LAKELAND — A four-month undercover investigation into Internet child pornography netted the arrests of nearly two-dozen suspects, more than 100,000 images and 500 videos, Polk Sheriff Grady Judd announced Thursday morning.

Among the videos seized from the 19 suspects, a video slide show tutorial on how to sexually molest children between birth and 8 years old was found, along with other videos of minors in sex acts with other children, adults and animals.

"I have never seen anything as repulsive as our detectives and prosecutors are dealing with today," Judd said.

The suspects were relatively unremarkable members of the community. Most worked either low-wage hourly jobs or as tradesmen, said sheriff's reports, and one was a high school student. A few had criminal histories.

The investigation, nicknamed "Operation Defender," was the largest undercover operation of its kind in Polk County Sheriff's Office history, he said. The accused range in age from a 17-year-old Kathleen High School student to 64 years old.

The operation, which began in October and ran through February, tried to locate people living in Polk County who possessed or distributed child pornography through Internet file sharing sites, said Sheriff's Office reports.

Images of children as young as 1 month old were recovered from suspects' computers as investigators searched their homes, the office said. The average age of the child victims appeared to be between 7 and 9.

In the home of Joseph Allen, investigators seized 80,000 child pornography images and videos, reports said.

Judd called Allen the "poster child" of the operation, as deputies discovered his computer keyboard covered in cigarette ash and a nearby gallon container used as a urinal.

"He made it so he didn't have to get up from his computer," Judd said.

19 arrested in onlinechild porn case 03/20/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 9:44am]

    

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