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Paedo ring sysadmins jailed for 11 years

Operation Informal

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Two British men yesterday began prison sentences totalling 11 years and three months for their involvement in a sophisticated paedophile ring.

Simon Chan, a 27 year-old IT engineer from Sunbury-on-Thames, Surrey, was sentenced to a total of five and half years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute indecent images and admitting 20 counts of making indecent images.

Robert Pearson, aged 50, a former deputy head teacher at Campion High School in Liverpool, pleaded guilty to 22 counts of making indecent images, one count of Conspiracy to distribute indecent images and three counts of indecent assault. He was sentenced to five years and nine months imprisonment.

Both men were also disqualified from working with children for life and placed on the Sex Offenders Register, again for life.

The men were part of a worldwide Internet paedophile network that broadcast abuse of children live on the Internet. The group was also involved in making and distributing indecent photographs and movies, according to investigators.

The abuse by these groups - called "Insurance" and "Holiday PartyTime" - came to light through Operation Informal, which began last July.

Operation Informal involved officers from the UK's National Hi-Tech Crime Unit working with law enforcement around the world to track down the owners and administrators of the secure areas on the Internet frequented by members of the two groups.

The trail that led to Chan and Pearson began when officers from the UK's National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) examined a US computer used by members of the two groups. This led to the identification of Simon Chan, a 27 year-old security IT engineer from Staines, through his nickname 'XMASBUNNY'. Officers from the NHTCU arrested Chan on 14 August 2002 and carried out an extensive search of his home.

Further examination of the computer and interviewing of Chan also identified another UK member, Robert Pearson (nicknames 'Eagle' and 'Harpy'), then a deputy head teacher at Campion High School in Everton, Merseyside. Pearson was arrested on 21 August 2002.

The duo acted as sysadmins for the network and so their arrests and conviction are seen as some of the most significant of Operation Informal.

The paedophile groups, which had their own rules and regulations, employed "sophisticated techniques" to exchange files over secure servers in an attempt to avoid detection by law enforcement agencies, the NHTCU says.

A large quantity of computers and digital media was retrieved from the homes of these two men, including hard drives, CD-ROMs and videos. Chan's computer media alone contained more than 100 GB of material - equating to 28,000 images and 3,000 videos. Pearson's computers contained 60,000 images and 5,000 videos.

NHCTU officer received a commendation from Judge Addison for their work in uncovering Pearson and Chan's crimes.

Detective Superintendent Mick Deats, deputy head of the NHTCU, said: "We are delighted with the sentences handed out to these men. This was a lengthy and complicated operation, which drew on all the specialist skills of our officers. Most importantly, a child who was identified as a result of this operation is no longer at risk.

"This group used some of the most sophisticated encryption, and through computer forensic techniques we were able to crack some of the encryption used and recover images as evidence.

"We are determined to identify, target and prosecute criminals who abuse children on or off-line, and want to send a clear message to other abusers that there is no hiding place for paedophiles on the Internet." ®

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