Founder of ukraine-Based hardcore child pornography website admits guilt, will be sentenced to 30 years in prison
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 8, 2014
Investigation Led to Conviction of More Than 600 American Subscribers to Illegal Site
NEWARK, N.J. – A Ukrainian man who founded and ran an international hardcore child sexual abuse website today admitted his role in a child exploitation enterprise and agreed to a 30-year prison term, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Maksym Shynkarenko, 35, of Kharkov, Ukraine, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge William H. Walls in Newark federal court to Count 31 of an indictment charging him with conducting a child exploitation enterprise in connection with a website he operated between 2005 and 2008. Shynkarenko was initially detained in Thailand in January 2009 pending extradition. He was transported to the United States and has been in custody in the United States since making his initial court appearance in June 2012.
The investigation into the website Shynkarenko operated has led to convictions in 47 states of more than 600 American consumers of hardcore images of children being sexually assaulted and abused.
“The guilty plea of Maksym Shynkarenko is the capstone to an operation that has led to the imprisonment of hundreds of offenders who traded in recorded images of horrific child abuse and torture,” U.S. Attorney Fishman said. “Because of today’s technology, the images of that abuse will be available for years. It’s fitting that Shynkarenko will spend the next three decades of his life in a prison cell paying for the pain from which he has profited.”
“The HSI investigation leading to today’s plea resulted in convictions of 600 American consumers of child pornography in 47 states, dozens of whom were previously convicted sex offenders,” Andrew McLees, special agent in charge of HSI in Newark, said. “Today’s plea again underscores HSI’s commitment to taking those who distribute and sell graphic images and videos of child pornography off the street. Shynkarenko founded and operated a website that offered subscribers access to thousands of despicable images and videos of child sexual abuse. As we did in this case, HSI and our international law enforcement partners will continue to use every tool at our disposal to track down those who exploit children and bring them to justice.”
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
From at least 2005 through mid-2008, Shynkarenko operated from Ukraine a website that he helped design, and which offered access to thousands of images and videos of child sexual abuse. Subscribers typically paid a fee of $79.99 for a 20-day subscription to the website. Shynkarenko worked in conjunction with other individuals, including an individual from Siberia who helped process credit card payments in a way that disguised the true nature of what was purchased. Shynkarenko and the other individuals operating the website granted access to images and videos of child pornography to subscribers on hundreds of occasions from 2005 to 2008. Shynkarenko said he worked with other individuals who advertised the child pornography website over the Internet under names such as “Illegal.CP” and “Pedo Heaven.”
Agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, first located the child pornography website operated by Shynkarenko in October 2005 – based in part on e-mails recovered from the computer of an individual in Long Branch, N.J. At that time, the banner page of the site identified it as “Illegal.CP,” and the page featured more than a dozen images of minors engaged in sexual acts with other minors and adults. That page declared “[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, of course, many videos.” The words “join now” appeared at the top and bottom of the page.
An ICE 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 and indicated that the credit card charges for $79.99 would appear on the subscriber’s credit card bill as “ADSOFT.” 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.”
ICE HSI agents determined that the site contained thousands of what appeared to be images of child sexual abuse, both still images and videos, and that it offered the purchase of additional videos through the website.
Working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, ICE HSI agents in Newark were able to identify hundreds of individuals who subscribed to the “Illegal.CP” website between November 2005 and February 2006. Those leads, largely developed through agents’ monitoring of the website, led to what became a three-phase investigation: Operation Emissary, Emissary II, and Thin Ice. In late 2006, agents recovered a database of hundreds of additional individuals whose credit cards had been processed while subscribing to the “Illegal.CP” website. During the third phase in 2008, the continued investigation by ICE HSI agents focused more on the operators of the website, including Shynkarenko, and recovered evidence of hundreds of additional individuals who had attempted to subscribe.
The leads, along with master search warrants prepared by the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office, were distributed to ICE HSI offices and U.S. Attorney’s Offices throughout the nation. The investigation has led to the conviction of more than 600 individuals in 47 states, making the investigation one of the most successful child sexual abuse investigations in the nation’s history. A list of the more than 600 American consumers convicted as a result of the investigation and the sentences they received is appended to this release.
The child exploitation enterprise count to which Shynkarenko pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of life imprisonment and a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison. Under the terms of the plea agreement, the court will sentence Shynkarenko to a term of 30 years in prison. The count also carries a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gross amount of any pecuniary gain derived from the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for April 15, 2014.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of ICE HSI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Andrew McLees, for the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea. He 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, as well as acknowledging the important work of Thai authorities. U.S. Attorney Fishman also thanked the numerous ICE HSI offices and U.S. Attorney’s Offices around the country who prosecuted the cases that secured the 600 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. 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 J. McCarren and Danielle Walsman of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark and Assistant U.S. Attorney Harvey Bartle in Trenton.
Defense counsel: Nicholas Wooldridge Esq. and Arkady Bukh Esq., Brooklyn, N.Y.