72 charged in probe of child sexual abuse network

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. authorities are announcing charges against 72 people accused of taking part in an international child pornography network. They say the network involved an online bulletin board through which tens of thousands of images and videos of sexually abused children were traded.

Of the people charged in the United States, 52 have been arrested -- including nine overseas. Arrests have also been made in 13 other countries.

Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano say a 20-month law enforcement effort targeted more than 600 members of the bulletin board around the world.

According to court papers, a number of participants in the network sexually abused children ages 12 and under, and produced images and video of the abuse. They then allegedly shared the material with other club members. Authorities say that in order to maintain their membership, participants were required to continually upload images of child sexual abuse.

Napolitano says the amount of child porn that was swapped was the equivalent of 16,000 DVDs.

Already, 13 of the 52 people who've been charged in the U.S. and arrested have pleaded guilty. Of the four who have been sentenced, the shortest term was 20 years.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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