British Cops Smash Global Child Porn Ring

May 6, 2011 2:00 PM PST

LINCOLNSHIRE, England — British police have smashed a global child porn network that according to reports had its largest numbers of subscribers in the U.S. and netted the criminals more than $3 million.

“Operation Alpine” busted the ring that stretched across 46 countries and was operated for nearly seven years from a hamlet in rural Lincolnshire.

The network was disguised as a “news service” according to Lincolnshire Police — a relatively small U.K. police force — who led a team of other agencies to uncover the website that supplied more than 1,300 suspected pedophiles nearly 5 million indecent images of children from a server operated in the hamlet of Martin Dales.

Four men pleaded guilty to running the websites that included charges of distribution and possession of indecent images of children at Nottingham Crown Court.

"For me, this investigation was ground-breaking. In many respects it was very much more difficult as the force ... was not only leading a large-scale international operation, but also handling extremely challenging types of criminality,” said detective chief superintendent Roger Bannister.

He added, "I hope this case sends out a powerful message to people with a sexual interest in children worldwide — the Internet is not a place for this kind of activity. We will trace you and you will be brought to justice."

The investigation began in 2005 after an intelligence tip from Germany was forwarded to U.K. officials by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP).

The operation netted 2,182 seized exhibits including an “industrial-sized” server with storage capacity of 3.2 million floppy disks that reportedly used so much electricity it dimmed building lights.

Officers also cataloged 5.5 million images and nearly 6,000 films, located 211 suspects and secured 38 convictions.

The reports said 132 children in Britain are being protected and safeguarded as a result of the investigation.

The gang included Ian Frost, 35, and Paul Rowlands, 34, both of Lincolnshire, Paul Frost, 37, of Sheffield and Ian Sambridge, 32, of St Albans, all of whom admitted to the charges.

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