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Grilled by US federal agents

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Dutch web hosting company PGW Internet Solutions aided cyber scammer John Zuccarini in directing children looking for Disneyland, Harry Potter or Bob the Builder to explicit porn sites instead. The Register discovered that thousands of Zuccarini’s websites - including adaptac.com, gorgewbush.com and Bobthebiulder.com - were hosted from the Netherlands by PGW and its adult hosting company XXXextreme.nl.

PGW owner Arjan van Jaaren, who was grilled by US federal agents about Zuccarini, says that for a long time he didn't know what was going on, "because he (Zuccarini) had direct access to dedicated servers...When we discovered that he lured children to porn sites, we tried to shut him down, but every time he had a different excuse."

Van Jaaren blames a former partner for contracting Zuccarini, who was PGW's biggest and best paying customer ever, but already earning notoriety as a typosquatter.

In September US federal agents arrested John Zuccarini (53) at a motel in Hollywood, Florida. Last week he pleaded guilty to 49 charges under a newly enacted federal law that makes it a crime to entice children onto X-rated Web sites. He will be sentenced in February.

Zuccarini registered thousands of popular web addresses, but with omitted or transposed letters to entice users to the seediest corners of the Internet. At one time Zuccarini employed more than 5,500 copycat Web addresses. In 2000 the cybersquatter claimed he was earning $1 million per year, much of it from porn sites that paid him when he sent web users their way. Zucccarini got a referral fee of between 10 to 25 cents per user.

After the US government issued a court order effectively shutting down two thousand of his domains due to legal conflicts, Zuccarini re-registered many of the domains in the Netherlands, often using the postal address of PGW in the Whois database.

Some of these domains directly targeted children. Recent picks included Teltubbies.com and Bobthebiulder.com, variations on popular animated tv shows. Zuccarini registered 15 variations of the popular children's cartoon site www.cartoonnetwork.com, and 41 variations on the name of teen pop star Britney Spears. Those who typed in the addresses often got redirected to a garish porn site called Hanky Panky College, also hosted by PGW Internet Solutions.

Van Jaaren once was one of the top three adult providers in the Netherlands, according to this report, but because of the Zuccarini case Van Jaaren says he has left the adult business behind him. However, Van Jaaren admits he still runs the XXXextreme.nl site. "I won't turn down a good adult customer down," Van Jaaren told The Register. "But I won't be hosting them any longer myself." ®

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