APPROXIMATELY 7,000 people were registered as members of the Candyman "e-group,"
including 2,400 people living outside the United States, Attorney General John Ashcroft
and Bruce Gebhardt, head of the FBI's Criminal Investigation Division, said at a news
conference at FBI headquarters.
The private community Web site was operated by Yahoo!, the Internet search portal, which
was not aware of the group's activities, Ashcroft said.
By midafternoon Monday, 40 people — 39 men and one woman — had been arrested in 26
states, including 27 who have been charged with molesting children, Gebhardt said. More
arrests were expected in the coming weeks and months, he said.
"As its name implies, the 'Operation Candyman' e-group had a single purpose in mind ... to
exploit and degrade children," Ashcroft said.
Gebhardt and Mike Heimbach, head of the FBI's Crimes Against Children Unit, said
authorities initially concentrated on identified members of the Candyman group who held
sensitive jobs that either involved working with children or were positions of authority.
"The first 21 arrested were in that category of significant perpetrators because they held a
position of trust," Heimbach said.
Among those arrested in the initial phase of the operation were two Roman Catholic priests
and other members of the clergy (8 Clergy Total); two law-enforcement employees; Little
League coaches, a school-bus driver and a nurse, Gebhardt said.
Few details were immediately available on the individual arrests, but Gebhardt said one of
the Catholic priests had been arrested in the Baltimore area, and one of the law enforcement
workers was a non-sworn employee of a West Virginia law enforcement agency.
Gebhardt said the FBI's Houston office had spearheaded what was dubbed Operation
Candyman, which began in January 2001, but all of the bureau's 56 field offices participated
in the investigation.
The use of the Internet to sell and trade child pornography has grown sharply in recent
In 2001, the FBI's Crimes Against Children Unit opened 1,541 cases against people
suspected of using the Internet to commit crimes involving child pornography or abuse,
compared to 113 cases in 1996. The FBI had 20 employees devoted to cases involving
Internet crimes against children in 1995, compared to about 150 agents now.
In 1995, the FBI created a nationwide task force code named Innocent Images. Since then,
agents devoted to the effort have initiated over 5,700 investigations and have arrested and
convicted over 3,000 people.
U.S. law-enforcement officials and experts on pedophilia generally agree that there is a link
between child pornography and sexual abuse of children. The U.S. Postal Inspection
Service said last year that 36 percent of child pornography investigations undertaken by its
inspectors since 1997 led to child molesters.
The arrest of the priests was likely to add to the controversy swirling around recent
allegations that a handful of church clergymen, including defrocked priest John Geoghan of
Boston, were serial pedophiles. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has promised to
discuss a comprehensive national response to the issue during the bishop's next meeting in
FBI Sting nets over 7000 People!
FBI busts child pornography
8 - Priests!, and law enforcement workers among those arrested.
WASHINGTON, March 18 — Priests, Little League coaches, school workers and law
enforcement employees were among those arrested in a nationwide sweep that shut
down an Internet child pornography ring, federal law enforcement officials said Monday.
Forty people have been arrested, officials said, and another 50 are expected to be
arrested in the near future.