Three men have been arrested as part of an investigation into a child abuse network - a 28-year-old Hervey Bay man and two Sydney men aged 29 and 48.
Three men have been arrested as part of an investigation into a child abuse network - a 28-year-old Hervey Bay man and two Sydney men aged 29 and 48. Contributed

Child abuse ring: Coast man captured in major sting

A MAJOR investigation into a depraved child abuse network has led police to the Fraser Coast.

This is after a tip-off from the United States National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children resulted in an Australian Federal Police Child Protection Operations team arresting a 29-year-old Sydney man for possessing and sharing child abuse material.

A search of that man's electronic devices allegedly revealed he was communicating with a 28-year-old Hervey Bay man via an instant messaging application.

The NSW AFP officers alerted their counterparts in the Queensland Joint Anti Child Exploitation Team (QLD JACET), who began an investigation into the Hervey Bay man's alleged online activities.

On Wednesday, May 6, the QLD JACET, along with members of the AFP Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE), executed a search warrant at the man's residence and seized several electronic items, including a tablet and a laptop computer.

During this search, a forensic and ACCCE covert interrogation of seized electronic items identified another individual who was suspected of sending self-produced child abuse material to the Hervey Bay man.

The 28-year-old, who the Chronicle cannot identify for legal reasons, will appear before Brisbane Magistrates Court on July 3 on charges of transmitting and possessing child abuse material.

Back in NSW, the AFP CPO team began urgent enquiries to identify the unknown second person and on Friday, May 8 with the assistance of NSW Police Force Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad officers, executed a search warrant at a Sydney residence and removed a child from harm.

Child abuse images were allegedly uncovered during the investigation
Child abuse images were allegedly uncovered during the investigation Contributed

Police will allege a 29-year-old man had been sexually abusing a boy known to him at that location and creating and producing child exploitation material.

Child abuse images were allegedly discovered on electronic devices during the investigation
Child abuse images were allegedly discovered on electronic devices during the investigation Contributed

It will be alleged he had been transmitting and sharing videos and photographs of the alleged abuse of the boy, as well as other child abuse material.

Police will also allege that the 29-year-old has sexually abused three other young boys he had contact with and inquiries by the AFP and NSW Police Force Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad are ongoing.

The man is also accused of engaging in sexual acts with two dogs, which have also been removed from harm.

Several electronic items - which allegedly contain child abuse images and videos - and other evidence were seized from the man's home during the warrant. 

The 29-year-old has been charged with 10 offences including having sexual intercourse with a child under 10, three counts of intentionally sexually touching a child under 10, bestiality, two counts of using a carriage service to transmit child abuse material, two counts of possessing or controlling child abuse material obtained or accessed using a carriage service and possessing, controlling, producing, supplying or obtaining child abuse material for use through a carriage service.

Australian Federal Police officers have uncovered a major child abuse network.
Australian Federal Police officers have uncovered a major child abuse network. Contributed

The potential maximum penalties for the offences range from 14 years imprisonment to a life sentence.

The man has been remanded in custody to reappear in Central Local Court on 9 June.

Further inquiries on Friday, May 8 led police to search the Sydney home of a 48-year-old man, who is allegedly known to the 29-year-old.

A preliminary search of his computer uncovered images and videos allegedly depicting child abuse material.

The 48-year-old was charged with possessing, controlling, producing or supplying child abuse material obtained or accessed using a carriage service and faced a Parramatta court on Saturday, May 9.

He was remanded in custody until his next appearance in Penrith Local Court on Tuesday, May 12.

AFP Acting Commander for ACCCE and Child Protection Operations Paula Hudson said the efforts of all the ACCCE, AFP and State police in NSW and QLD involved in the investigation had saved four young boys from further harm.

"It is heartbreaking to think of any child being sexually abused or exploited to satisfy an adult's criminal impulses, but it strengthens our resolve to hunt down perpetrators and bring them to justice," she said.

"Sexual abuse has a devastating and lifelong impact on the child victims and their families and that abuse is amplified each time images or videos detailing the crimes are shared."

Acting Commander Hudson said the AFP and ACCCE worked tirelessly to protect children wherever they lived.

"We use a range of investigative techniques to detect anyone who preys on children - in person or online," she said.

"We want to warn alleged offenders they cannot stay anonymous online and the COVID-19 crisis has not shifted our focus from tracking down anyone involved in this vile behaviour.

"Use of encrypted applications and systems to share this distressing material will not protect you. We have the tools and capabilities to crack open your networks and arrest you."

The ACCCE, which is headquartered in Brisbane, is committed to stopping child exploitation and abuse and is at the centre of a collaborative national approach to combating organised child abuse.

The Centre brings together specialist expertise and skills in a central hub, supporting investigations into child sexual abuse and developing prevention strategies focused on creating a safer online environment.

Members of the public who have any information about people involved in child abuse and exploitation are urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

You can also make a report online by alerting the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation via the Report Abuse button at www.accce.gov.au/report.


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