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Creator of the world’s largest child porn site sentenced to 30 years in prison

Investigators found thousand of images showing children engaged in sex acts in his home.

Steven Chase, the creator of the world’s largest child porn website, was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Monday.

Chase created the website Playpen in 2014 and acted as lead administrator. The site amassed 150,000 users around the world, who would upload postings to the site, where it would then be indexed by age, gender, and sex act involved.

The FBI reports that the organization began investigating Playpen shortly after the site launched. Chase’s use of the dark web made it difficult for the FBI to identify who was behind the site, but he made a critical error that exposed a U.S.-based IP address. A foreign law enforcement agency noticed the mistake and alerted the FBI.

“From that point we took normal investigative steps—seized a copy of the website, served search warrants for e-mail accounts, followed the money—and everything led back to Steven Chase,” said Special Agent Dan Alfin.

Chase was arrested in 2015 at his home in Naples, FL. Gizmodo reported at the time that a search of the home “turned up thousands of images depicting the sexual abuse of children, many of whom were said to be barely kindergarten age.”

Two co-defendants and fellow administrators were sentenced to 20 years in prison: Michael Fluckiger, 46, of Indiana, and David Browning, 47, of Kentucky.

The FBI has also gone after Playpen users through Operation Pacifier.

“Members of his enterprise who were raping children, who were producing child pornography all around the world—those cases continue to be indicted and prosecuted,” Alfin said.

According to the FBI, the results of the investigation thus far have resulted in:

  • At least 350 U.S.-based individuals arrested
  • 25 producers of child pornography prosecuted
  • 51 hands-on abusers prosecuted
  • 55 American children successfully identified or rescued
  • 548 international arrests, with 296 sexually abused children identified or rescued.