His Ukrainian-based web site profited from “horrific,” hard-core images of child sexual abuse until it was broken up by a federal undercover investigation that led to more than 600 convictions in 47 states.
On Wednesday, Jan. 8th, Maksym Shynkarenko, 35, of Kharkov, Ukraine, pleaded guilty in federal court in Newark to a single count of child exploitation and agreed to a 30-year prison term.
Shynkarenko operated the website between 2005 and 2008, offering access to thousands of images and videos of child sexual abuse to subscribers who paid $79.99 for a 20-day subscription, authorities said.
He was initially apprehended in Thailand in January 2009 and extradited to the United States, where he first appeared in court in June 2012.
The guilty plea “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,” Paul Fishman, U.S. attorney in Newark, said in announcing the plea.
Agents of the U.S. Homeland Security Investigations directorate discovered Shynkarenko’s web site in October 2005, after studying emails seized from a computer in Long Branch, N.J., the Justice Department said.
At the time, the site carried the banner “Illegal CP” and more than a dozen images of minors engaged in sexual acts with other children or adults.
The page declared that “you are in [sic] few minutes away from the best children porn site on the net!” and that “[i]f you join this site you will get tons of uncensored forbidden pics … forbidden stories, of course, many videos.”
That fall, an undercover agent of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement bought a 20-day subscription. When the agent opened the site, it warned: “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.”
By monitoring the site over the next year, the agents traced hundreds of its customers and plotted out a three-phase investigation that ultimately focused on the site’s operators, including Shynkarenko, its founder.
Justice Department officials, who released a list of those convicted to date and their sentences, hailed the investigation as one of the most successful child sexual abuse investigations in U.S. history.
Under terms of the plea agreement, U.S. District Judge William Walls will sentence Shynkarenko to 30 years in prison. At his sentencing, scheduled for April 14th, he also faces a fine of up to $250,000 or twice whatever financial gain he derived from the operation.
The development came just two days after a former federal air marshal and border patrol agent was sentenced to 90 years in prison in another sensational child sexual exploitation case.
In 2008, while serving a separate prison sentence in Butner, N.C., for attempting to receive child pornography, Michael McGowan was caught attempting to arrange for the destruction of photographs of his repeated sexual abuse of three boys from 2000 to 2004, federal prosecutors said.
From a federal prison, McGowan wrote one of his victims, an 18-year-old boy, asking him to recover and destroy a hard drive containing child pornography that he’d hidden behind a sheetrock wall at his home in Hicksville, N.Y., they said. While interviewed by federal agents, the youth disclosed that McGowan had molested him from ages 10 to 14 and led authorities to the hidden hard drive.
The computer drive contained more than 1,000 images of child pornography, including images of children as young as five engaged in sexual conduct, as well as photos of McGowan molesting the boys ages 11 to 13, the government said.
Repeatedly while in prison, prosecutors said, McGowan tried to obstruct justice by sending threatening letters to one of the victims, the Justice Department said.
“Michael J. McGowan sexual predator of young boys for personal gratification, went so far as to use his position as a Federal Air Marshal to perpetrate his abuses,” said Loretta Lynch, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “Moreover, his prior imprisonment did nothing to deter him from compounding his crimes by reaching out from prison in an attempt to subvert justice and destroy evidence. McGowan’s effective life sentence will ensure that no other child faces abuse at his hands.”