Founder and operator of Ukrainian-based hardcore child pornography website extradited to U.S. from Thailand

NEWARK, N.J. – A Ukrainian citizen who founded and operated a hardcore child pornography website appeared in Newark federal court today to face child exploitation charges. He was extradited from Thailand over the weekend. The child porn investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) led to the conviction of more than 560 American subscribers to an illegal site in the most successful child pornography investigation in U.S. history.

The 32-count indictment unsealed Monday charges Maksym Shynkarenko, 33, of Kharkov, Ukraine, with numerous child exploitation charges arising out of an investigation which has led to the convictions of more than 560 American consumers, in 47 states, of hardcore images of children being sexually assaulted and abused.

The indictment charges Shynkarenko with one count of conspiracy to transport and ship child pornography; 16 counts of transportation and shipment of child pornography; one count of conspiracy to advertise child pornography; 12 counts of advertising child pornography; and one count each of engaging in a child exploitation enterprise and money laundering.

Shynkarenko was arrested in January 2009 pursuant to the indictment after HSI tracked him to Thailand where he had traveled for a vacation. Thai authorities detained him pending the completion of the extradition process. The defendant is expected to appear this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph A. Dickson.

"Today is the culmination of a long HSI investigation that resulted in hundreds of consumers of child porn being taken off the street," said Andrew McLees, special agent in charge of HSI Newark. "HSI and our international law enforcement partners will use every tool at our disposal to protect children from consumers of that predation and bring them to justice, whether around the block or around the world."

"According to the indictment, Maksym Shynkarenko profited from the unspeakable abuse of thousands of innocent children by selling access to their suffering through his website," said U.S. Attorney Fishman. "Distributors and consumers of child pornography create a market for sexual assaults on children, where the victimization of those children is refreshed with every download. Shyknarenko's extradition from Thailand to a New Jersey courtroom is a milestone in one of our most important fights – keeping our children safe from harm."

According to the indictment and other documents filed in this and related cases, Shynkarenko founded and operated a website which offered subscribers access to thousands of images and videos depicting the sexual abuse and exploitation of boys and girls ranging from infants to teenagers. From as early as December 2003 through July 2008, Shynkarenko and co-conspirators earned hundreds of thousands of dollars by selling access to the child pornography website to customers around the world, including in the United States.

HSI special agents first located the site in October 2005 – based in part on e-mails recovered from the computer of an individual from Long Branch, N.J., The banner page of the site identified it as "Illegal.CP," featured more than a dozen images of minors engaged in sexual acts with other minors and adults, and proclaimed, "[n]ow you are in [sic] few minutes away from the best children porn site on the net!" and "[i]f you join this site you will get tons of uncensored forbidden pics . . . forbidden stories, and, of course, many videos." The page also featured purported feedback from a self-described pedophile who praised the website. The words "join now" appeared at the top and bottom of the page.

An HSI special agent, acting in an undercover capacity, purchased a 20-day subscription to the "Illegal.CP" website in October 2005, and the next day, received an e-mail that provided a login and a password – indicating that the credit card charges would appear on the subscriber's credit card bill as "ADSOFT" and would include a charge for $79.99. Upon accessing the "Illegal.CP" website, the initial page warned subscribers as follows:

FAQ, Please read. "Our site is considered to be illegal in all countries....Even if you ever have problems with police, you can always say that someone had stolen the information from your credit card and used it. It is very difficult to establish that you were the person to pay."

HSI special agents determined the site contained thousands of what appeared to be images of child pornography, both still images and videos, and that it offered the purchase of additional videos through the website.

In conjunction with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Jersey, HSI special agents in Newark were subsequently able to identify hundreds of individuals who successfully subscribed to the "Illegal.CP" website between November 2005 and February 2006. Those leads, largely developed through special agents' monitoring of the website, were the first in what became a three-stage investigation: Operations Emissary, Emissary Two and Thin ICE. In late 2006, special agents recovered a database of hundreds of additional individuals whose credit cards had been processed as part of an effort to subscribe to the "Illegal.CP" website. During the third phase in 2008, the continued investigation by HSI special agents in Newark focused more on the operators of the website, and recovered evidence of hundreds of additional individuals who had attempted to subscribe.

The leads, along with draft master search warrants prepared by the New Jersey U.S. Attorney's Office, were distributed to HSI offices and U.S. Attorneys' Offices throughout the nation.

In total, the investigation of Shynkarenko's website has led, thus far, to the convictions of more than 560 individuals nationwide from 47 states, marking the continuing investigation as the most successful child pornography investigation in the nation's history. A representative list of the New Jersey defendants identified and the sentences they received is appended to this release.

The convicted subscribers to the "Illegal.CP" website include dozens of previously convicted sex offenders and the investigation has led to the discovery of numerous others who were actively molesting children.

If convicted, Shynkarenko faces a statutory minimum penalty of five years in prison and a maximum penalty of 20 years on each count of transportation and shipment of child pornography. Each child pornography advertising count carries a statutory minimum penalty of 15 years in prison and a statutory maximum penalty of 30 years. The child exploitation enterprise count carries a statutory minimum penalty of 20 years in prison and a statutory maximum penalty of life. Shynkarenko also faces a fine of up to $250,000 on each of those counts. The money laundering conspiracy count carries a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

In addition to HSI Newark, U.S. Attorney Fishman also thanked the United States Marshals Service, under the direction of U.S. Marshal Juan Mattos Jr., for its work in transporting Shynkarenko from Thailand. In addition, U.S. Attorney Fishman credited the numerous HSI offices and U.S. Attorney's Offices around the country who prosecuted the cases that secured the hundreds of convictions achieved during Operations Emissary and Operation Thin ICE, and thanked the Department of Justice's Office of International Affairs and Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section for their important roles.

The U.S. Attorney also acknowledged the vital work of Thai authorities. Additionally, he noted the invaluable assistance provided by MasterCard and Visa officials during the course of the investigation.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark McCarren of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Newark and Harvey Bartle in Trenton.

The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.