As responses from exchanges with these customers’ identification data started to pour in, the staff began the method of assembling extra full profiles of their targets. They started to gather the names, faces, and photographs of lots of of males—they have been virtually all males—from all walks of life, in all places on the earth. Their descriptions crossed boundaries of race, age, class, and nationality. All these people appeared to have in widespread was their gender and their monetary connection to a worldwide, hidden haven of kid abuse.
By this time, the staff felt they’d pinned down the location’s Korean administrator with confidence. They’d gotten a search warrant for Son Jong-woo’s Gmail accounts and lots of of his change information, they usually might see that he alone gave the impression to be receiving the cashed-out proceeds from the location—not his father, who more and more appeared to the investigators like an unwitting participant, a person whose son had hijacked his identification to create crypto-currency accounts. In Son Jong-woo’s emails, they discovered photographs of the youthful man for the primary time—selfies he’d taken to point out buddies the place he’d chipped a tooth in a automotive accident, as an example. He was a skinny, unremarkable-looking younger Korean man with wide-set eyes and a Beatles-esque mop-top of black hair.
However as their portrait of this administrator took form, so too did the profiles of the lots of of different males who had used the location.* A number of instantly caught out to the investigative staff: One suspect, to the dismay of Thomas Tamsi and his Homeland Safety colleagues, was an HSI agent in Texas. One other, they noticed with a distinct kind of dread, was the assistant principal of a highschool in Georgia. The varsity administrator had posted movies of himself on social media singing duets, karaoke-style, with teenage women from his college. The movies would possibly in any other case have been seen as harmless. However given what they knew in regards to the man’s Bitcoin funds, brokers who had extra expertise with baby exploitation warned Janczewski that they could mirror a type of grooming.
These have been males in privileged positions of energy, with potential entry to victims. The investigators might instantly see that, as they suspected, they would wish to arrest a few of Welcome to Video’s customers as shortly as attainable, even earlier than they might organize the takedown of the location. Little one exploitation consultants had cautioned them that some offenders had methods in place to warn others if legislation enforcement had arrested or compromised them—code phrases or lifeless man’s switches that despatched out alerts in the event that they have been absent from their laptop for a sure time frame. Nonetheless, the Welcome to Video investigation staff felt they’d little alternative however to maneuver shortly and take that danger.
One other suspect, across the identical time, got here onto their radar for a distinct cause: He lived in Washington, DC. The person’s residence, the truth is, was simply down the road from the US attorneys’ workplace, close to the capital’s Gallery Place neighborhood. He occurred to dwell in the exact same residence constructing that one of many prosecutors had solely lately moved out of.
That location, they realized, is likely to be helpful to them. Janczewski and Gambaryan might simply search the person’s residence and his computer systems as a take a look at case. If that proved the person was a Welcome to Video buyer, they might be capable to cost your entire case in DC’s judicial district, overcoming a key authorized hurdle.
As they dug deeper, although, they discovered that the person was a former congressional staffer and held a high-level job at a prestigious environmental group. Would arresting or looking the house of a goal with that kind of profile trigger him to make a public outcry, sinking their case?
Simply as they educated their sights on this suspect of their midst, nevertheless, they discovered that he had gone unusually quiet on social media. Somebody on the staff had the thought to tug his journey information. They discovered that he had flown to the Philippines and was about to fly again to DC by way of Detroit.
This discovery led the brokers and prosecutors to 2 ideas: First, the Philippines was a infamous vacation spot for intercourse tourism, usually of the type that preyed on youngsters—the HSI workplace in Manila continuously had its arms full with baby exploitation circumstances. Second, when the person flew again to the US, Customs and Border Safety might legally detain him and demand entry to his gadgets to seek for proof—a weird and controversial carve-out in Individuals’ constitutional protections that, on this case, would possibly come in useful.
Would their DC-based suspect sound the alarm and tear the lid off their investigation, simply because it was getting began?