Guilty Pleas Represent 'Final Phase' In Dismantling Of Online Child-Porn Operation - InformationWeek

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Guilty Pleas Represent 'Final Phase' In Dismantling Of Online Child-Porn Operation

Three employees of an Internet billing company in Belarus now face sentencing, following a two-year international investigation.

Three employees of Regpay Co., an Internet billing company in Belarus, have pleaded guilty to charges related to their roles in an international child-pornography operation. They face sentences of up to 30 years in a U.S. federal prison.

Yahor Zalatarou, president of Regpay, on Monday pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport child porn via computer, and Aliaksandr Boika, technical administrator, admitted to advertising the illegal images. Both pleaded guilty to money laundering in connection with the illicit enterprise.

The pleas came days before jury selection was to begin in their trial. In mid-February, Alexei Buchnev, Regpay's marketing director, pleaded guilty to transporting child porn via computer.

The pleas cap off a two-year investigation into Regpay and several other businesses that processed credit-card transactions for thousands of customers who paid up to $79.95 per month to access child-porn sites, some of which ran on servers hosted by Internet-services companies in the United States.

Payment records also led investigators to subscribers of those child-porn sites, two dozen of which were operated by Regpay. According to the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the investigation has resulted in more than 1,200 arrests in 13 countries.

ICE special agent Kyle Hutchins, in a written statement, described the pleas as "the final phase" in dismantling a child-porn operation that spanned international boundaries. Other law-enforcement agencies involved were the Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, local officials in Florida, and others in England, France, Spain, and Germany. The defendants were extradited by the Justice Department and are being prosecuted by the U.S attorney for the district of New Jersey.

Credit-card processing company Connections USA, in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., was implicated previously of money-laundering in association with Regpay, and two officers of the company had already pleaded guilty for their involvement. Connections president, Arthur Levinson, has since pleaded guilty to an "unrelated charge involving the structuring of funds to avoid the filing of currency transaction reports," according to ICE. Last fall, three individuals with a California company called LB Systems Inc. also pleaded guilty for their involvement on the financial side.

One Regpay employee remains at large. Tatsiana Sienko, the company's administrative and financial assistant, was indicted in January of 2004, but has yet to be arrested. Because the United States does not have an extradition arrangement with Belarus, Zalatarou and Buchnev were lured to Paris in July 2003 on a ruse by law-enforcement officials, and arrested there. Boika was arrested in Spain a few weeks later while on vacation.

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