Back in August 2014, Steven W. Chase, 58, created what he dubbed Playpen – a dark net website trading in child pornography, using an open internet network. The Fbi said in a press release that the website had around 150,000 users worldwide. Law enforcement officials knew about the site as soon as it was launched, but were unable to do anything about it, until Chase accidentally revealed the unique IP address of his website.

Thousands of images found in Florida man’s home

As reported by Gizmodo, once the FBI had that IP address, their investigations eventually led them to Chase.

After a search of his home in February 2015, Chase was taken into custody after thousands of images were found in his Naples, Florida home depicting the sexual abuse of children. Once Chase was in custody, the FBI seized control of his website, but allowed it to continue running for a further two weeks in the hope of catching some of the users who visited Playpen. While the website continued to run, the FBI distributed malware designed to uncover those users. According to Gizmodo’s report, the decision to keep the website going is still considered to be controversial.

FBI’s investigation led to hundreds of arrests relating to child pornography

According to the New York Daily News, the FBI’s ongoing investigation has led to the arrest of 350 United States based suspects, along with 548 arrests in other countries.

Reportedly, 51 of those arrested have since been identified as being “hands-on abusers.” The news release said the efforts of their investigations have also led to the prosecution of 25 producers of child pornography.

Cooperation helped to make the arrests

Special Agent Dan Alfin, who is the lead on the case, said in a statement that they were only able to pull off the arrests because of the amount of support they received from field offices and international partners.

He noted that even countries that are traditionally reluctant to cooperate with law enforcement, were exceptionally helpful in tracking down the suspects.

Back in September last year, Chase was found guilty of engaging in child exploitation, as well as possession, transportation and advertisement of child pornography.

This week saw him in a North Carolina court where he received the 30-year prison sentence. Two of his co-defendants, David Browning, 47, and Michael Fluckiger, 46, received 20-year prison terms earlier this year, after pleading guilty back in December 2015.

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