Operation Ore: evidence of massive credit card fraud
Innocent until accused of paedophilia
There are few subjects as emotive as child pornography, and few accusations that can so quickly and permanently tar a reputation. Merely to be accused of a child pornography offence is to be convicted in the public consciousness.
But now it seems that Operation Ore, which saw some 7,272 British residents targeted on suspicion of buying child porn online, might have been based on rather shakier evidence than the police would like to admit.
In The Guardian today, investigative reporter Duncan Campbell says the evidence on which thousands of cases rest is unreliable.
Operation Ore began when US investigators handed a list of more than 7,000 names to British police. Each of the names appeared on a credit card transaction list, detailing card information processed by a portal site called Landslide.com.
Texas-based Landslide was not a pornography site in and of itself. Instead, it processed transactions for others, taking a 35 per cent slice of the sign up fee for its trouble.
That is not to say it was a blameless cash handler. Some of the sites that Landslide provided services to did indeed sell child pornography, and the owner of the company, Thomas Reedy, is currently serving a massive 180 year sentence (reduced from over 1,000 years) for his crimes.
But many of the sites it worked for were run-of-the-mill porn sites, filled with nothing more offensive than images of adult, consensual sex.
Campbell says that in many cases the only evidence brought was the list of credit card details. Now, he says, there is evidence that show massive levels of fraud on the list: many of the details were stolen, many more were used to sign up to perfectly legal sites.
He writes: "Late in 2006, copies of six hard drives seized from Landslide were flown to Britain to be examined by defence computer experts (including myself). They showed that Landslide had been plagued by a range of credit card fraud rackets, known in the industry as Card Not Present (CNP) frauds."
More than half the money taken by Landslide was paid to a trio of credit card fraudsters based in Indonesia. Working under the pseudonym Miranda, this group supplied child pornography over the internet. But Campbell says his new evidence, which was never disclosed by the prosecution, shows the men were also in the business of credit card fraud.
He says the UK police did not allow for the possibility of fraud in their investigations. While prosecution witnesses have testified that there was no evidence of fraud found, one forensic examiner admitted to Campbell that fraud was not specifically looked for, either.
But the levels of fraud were so high that by 1999 they actually sank Landslide. "If someone used a stolen card, Landslide had to bear the loss if there was a chargeback from the card issuer - often for the original amount and a penalty fee," Campbell explains.
There is further evidence that many of those on the list were not in fact buying child porn. Jim Bates, another forensic expert, tells Campbell the Landslide log of web activity clearly shows that many of the alleged porn purchasers never went to the sites to collect their pictures. He adds that many of the so-called porn sites were actually fake, constructed purely for the purposes of perpetrating a fraud.
In the UK, hundreds of men who say they were falsely accused on the basis of the evidence from Landslide have begun collecting names in the hope of launching a class action style lawsuit against the police.
The site these men use to communicate with one another, Inquisition21, has been delisted by Google, but the search giant has never explained why.
Many of those accused (at least 39, although some say the real figure my be much higher) have taken their own lives.
The implication of Campbell's new evidence is clear: thousands of people may have been falsely accused of the one of the most horrible crimes imaginable. Some may have even died as a result. ®
happened to me too
happened to me too
You said "I was officially charged "on suspicion of downloading child pornography" and all of my computing equipment (4 pc's, spares and a sun server) confiscated for 5 months! I was completely cleared of all charges and the whole thing was dropped but I spent 5 months without my own equipment - impacting personal and business activities (no more remote access) and was a nervous wreck all that time. I knew I was innocent, but as an Anime fan I was worried what they would think of some of the more graphic material."
As someone who works in the criminal justice system I read your account with some interest :-
Actually you can't be CHARGED with SUSPICION of anything – but you can be ARRESTED on SUSPICION of something.
If evidence was then found you would be CHARGED with POSSESSION or MAKING.
Which makes me think that your “story” is a work of fiction
The devil is in the detail.
a little more..
I think the point about Bates was that he took a course which he was told was the equivalent of a university degree. But let's see how that settles.
Cd anyone who wants to get in touch for followup? I'm pretty easy to find online.
Oh come on - a little less paranoia please
"Jim Bates was a successful prosecution expert witness for the authorities. after he exposed the flaws in the ORE investigation, suddenly he was a target."
Jim Bates may have been a successful prosecution expert but he ceased to have any credibility when, if private eye are to be believed, it was found out he had been lying on Oath about having a university degree. he of course has since gone on record as admitting that he does not have one.
"In Operation Ore, defendants were NOT in the main allowed to hire an expert witness to independently examine the hard drive."
Absolute rubbish - a whole industry has grown up of defence experts (Jim Bates and Duncan Cambell to name two) who make a living almost solely from op Ore. Between myself and a colleague we have handled about 30-40 such defences cases. One of the major forensic companies we know of has done several hundred defence cases. And there are yet other big defence companies who have probably done more. I know of a few independants who have been praciting for years off Op Ore. So a very educated guess is that *just the companies and individuals I know of* have probably done a few thousand defence cases.
You must remember that it is the defendants right to a fair trial - a defence solicitor (who has the defendants best interest at heart) would scream abuse of process if they could not get a defence expert - its all about parity of arms - if the proscutiopn have an expert the defence is entitled to one. Not getting an expert would be straight to the court of appeal and all over the papers. Not appointing one would also deprive the defence solicitor of a few days work - now why would a solicitor do that to himself.
You must plead guilty - hang on a second - if the defence lawyer thought there was a case then they would tell them to plead innocent - when a defendant gets advice to plead guilty it is because there is overwhelming evidence - determined by the defendants own expert as well - that they were guilty
"This means you acknowledge that either your name or credit card number was found on the database- for this you would accept a caution and get 2 years on the Sex Offenders Register.People were not told that accepting a caution amounted to a guilty plea. (and their lawyers didn't tell them either)"
"And their lawyers didn't tell them either"
I had to quote that bit twice as it is so outrageous. Conspiracy theory?
It seems what you are saying is that a) the police were out to get them and there was little or no evidence on there computers. b) the CPS were out to get them because even though the polcie didn't have a sound case the CPS ran with it. c) the defence lawyers were out to get them because they didn't fight for a defence expert (and incidentally if a defence expert was appointed the defence lawyers bill would go up appropriately as they would need to read and understand the evidence) and then advised them to accept a caution rather than to fight it (again the defence lawyers depriving themselves of revenue).
I have never seen a case where a single thumbnail has resulted in a prosecution never mind a conviction - I can pretty much guarantee that any half decent defence expert would get some one off on such flimsy evidence. I have had conversations with policemen who have had long discussions about whether to continue with much more evidence than that.
What this thread has shown me is that those who had no evidence on their machines seem to have been let off. Yes it may have not been dealt with as tactfully as maybe they would have liked and they have not received an appology. But what is the alternative - not investigate because you might hurt someones feelings.